Wouldn’t it be nice if you could browse the web without you need to take care of whether your actions and activities are tracked, thrown into a profile and sold marketers so you can more effectively target ads for things that couldnterest something more than other things?
While we may never experience that day, at least companies like DuckDuckGo are doing their part to fight the latest and greatest in monitoring technologies. In this case it’s Google decision to move forward with FLoC“Something DuckDuckGo doesn’t like so much is now adding tracking capabilities against FLoC.” your Chrome extension. It’s worth checking to see if you want to limit tracking so much possible while you are inside Google House.
What is FLoC?
If you haven’t heard of FLoC, I don’t blame you. I can’t count the number of people I know who don’t use any type of blocking software in their browsers; the the average person does not know and does not care about how they are tracked online.
Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome and instead switch to a FLoC-based model or “Federated Learning of Cohorts” works like this: Instead of treating you like an individual whose browsing habits (combined with all sorts of other data) could be used for detectionif you anonymize yourself online, you will instead become an unnamed person within a larger group of people or a cohort who share similar characteristics.
Like Web incubator community groups GitHub site for FLoC describes:
“The browser uses machine learning algorithms to develop a cohort based on the websites an individual visits. Algorithms can be based on the URLs of the websites you visit, the content of those pages, or other factors. The central idea is that these input features into the algorithm, including web history, are stored locally in the browser and not transferred elsewhere – the browser only exposes the generated cohort. The browser ensures that the cohorts are well distributed, so that each represents thousands of people. The browser may further use other anonymization methods, such as differential privacy. The number of cohorts should be small to reinforce that they cannot carry detailed information – short cohort names (“43A7”) can make this clear. “
Cclaim the rites of FLoC technology creates as many privacy issues as it tries to solve: from what happens when user information (“hidden” in a cohort) is suddenly associated with identifying features, such as login, general discriminatory issues arising from the possibility of targeting different groups of people in different ways on the Internet. Like Bennett Cyphers from EFF he writes:
“Even with the absolute power over information that can be used to target when, platforms are too often unable to prevent the misuse of their technology. But FLoC will use an uncontrolled algorithm to create its clusters. This means that no one will have direct control over the way people are grouped. Ideally (for advertisers), FLoC will create groups that have meaningful behaviors and common interests. But online behavior is associated with all sorts of sensitive characteristics – demographics such as gender, ethnicity, age and income; Personality traits of the “big 5”; even mental health. It is very likely that FLoC will group users along some of these axes as well. FLoC groupings can also directly reflect site visits related to substance abuse, financial difficulties, or support for trauma survivors. “
The ideal solution to this problem is to completely remove tracking – no third-party cookies, no fingerprints, no cohorts, nothing. Realistically, you will have to lead this battle on your own, because companies like Google have an interest in playing middle ground (or, if you don’t, a little more adaptable to advertisers, because that is what helps maintain light).
This is where the DuckDuckGo extension comes in. Since Chrome is the only browser currently using FLoC – rather, he will use FLoC (currently being tested) – all you have to do is make some adjustments to stay away from tracking technology. YesIf installing an extension is too tedious, DuckDuckGo notes that you can try several other techniques to disable FLoC (for now):
I’m not a big user of DuckDuckGo, but I can’t blame the company’s assessment on this. And then there’s the whole thing. “Google is testing FLoC without asking users to get involved in the trial, ”which also leaves me at a loss for words, privately. (Disable all third – party cookies on give up the FLoC trial, if you are enrolled – tThis will probably ruin your web experience, so you may be better off using a completely different browser for now.)
I don’t suppose the future will be No FLoC, but if you’re a Chrome fan, at least you can be calm for the next big thrust into your privacy. I I can’t wait for someone to make an extension that tells you if the site you’re visiting uses FLoC or giving up.