Chromium-based Vivaldi browser has removed FLoC, Google’s controversial alternative identifier to independent cookies for tracking users on websites.
Google has just released FLoC or Federated Learning of Cohorts for Chrome, in response to improved privacy while running targeted ads.
But Vivaldi called it a “dangerous step that harms user privacy.”
“Google’s new data collection venture is nasty,” he posted in a blog post beginning with the headline “FLoC off! Vivaldi does not support FLoC.”
“At Vivaldi, we stand for the privacy rights of our users. We do not approve of tracking and profiling under any guise. We would certainly not allow our products to build local tracking profiles.
“It introduces FLoC as part of a series of so-called ‘privacy’ technologies, but let’s remove the conversion here; FLoC is a tracking technology that attacks invasion.”
Vivaldi is based on Chromium. But while he relies on Chromium’s mechanism for properly displaying pages, he said that’s where Vivaldi’s similarities with Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers end.
It is said that the FLoC experiment does not work in Vivaldi because it relies on some hidden settings that are not enabled in Vivaldi.
The FLoC component in Chrome must call Google’s servers to see if it can work, as Google only allows this in parts of the world that are not covered by the European GDPR. As the blog explained, Vivaldi does not allow such an invitation to be made to Google.
“We will not support the FLoC API and plan to disable it, no matter how it is implemented. It does not protect privacy and is certainly not beneficial to users, inadvertently giving them privacy for Google’s financial gain,” he said.
Privacy advocates have widely criticized FLoC, although it is an improvement on third-party cookies. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF) called it a “terrible idea” because Chrome now shares a summary of each user’s recent browsing activities with marketing experts.
As Vivaldi explained, the advertising company previously could only see aspects of a user’s personality related to the sites where their ads were used. An ad provider that used only 1,000 sites could only see each visitor on one or two of their sites, so it couldn’t gather much user tracking data.
“FLoC is completely changing that. Its basic design involves sharing new information with advertisers,” he continued.
“Now each site will see the ID generated from your behavior on every other site.
“You could visit a website that relates to a very personal topic that may or may not use FLoC ads, and now every other website you visit gets its own FLoC ID, which shows that you’ve visited that particular type of website.”
FLoC, Vivaldi said, has very serious implications for people living in an environment where aspects of their personality, such as sexuality, political views or religion, are persecuted.
“Everyone can become part of your FLoC ID,” it says.
“It’s not about privacy anymore, it’s moving on. It crosses the line in terms of personal safety.
“We’re rejecting FLoC. You should, too.”