DuckDuckGo announces plans to block FLoC, Google’s new way of tracking users’ web browsing activity in Chrome.
As Google transitions away from using third-party cookies in Chrome, its developing a new technology called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts).
Google claims FLoC offers more privacy than third-party cookies because it monitors activity at a group level rather than an individual level.
With FLoC, browsing activity cannot be tied to any individual user. Though it does aim to collect enough data to serve personalized ads.
Privacy pundits like DuckDuckGo take issue with all forms of tracking, even when it’s less invasive.
DuckDuckGo finds it especially concerning that getting tracked via FLoC is not optional – all Chrome users are automatically opted into it.
“We’re disappointed that, despite the many publicly voiced concerns with FLoC that have not yet been addressed, Google is already forcing FLoC upon users without explicitly asking them to opt in. We’re nevertheless committed and will continue to do our part to deliver on our vision of raising the standard of trust online.”
It was a matter of time before DuckDuckGo implemented measures against Google’s new tracking technology.
Google launched FLoC less than two weeks ago, and DuckDuckGo is already planning to block it in the DuckDuckGo search engine and Chrome browser extension.
Changes to DuckDuckGo Browser Extension
DuckDuckGo is updating its Chrome browser extension with the ability to block FLoC interactions on websites.
The update is not yet available, however, as its pending approval from Google.
Google has to approve updates to Chrome extensions before they go live for users to download. It’s up to Google to grant users the ability to download DuckDuckGo’s Chrome extension update.
DuckDuckGo is confident the update will get approved and become available in version 2021.4.8 (and newer) of its Chrome extension.
The update can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store when it becomes available.
Changes to DuckDuckGo Search Engine
DuckDuckGo is bringing its FLoC-blocking feature to search results in an update that’s live now.
Users on all devices and all browsers will be opted out of FLoC when they use the DuckDuckGo search engine. This is in line with DuckDuckGo’s overall mission to protect user privacy.
Chrome users will be opted out of FLoC when they use the DuckDuckGo search engine regardless of whether they have the browser extension installed.
While there’s been no shortage of back and forth between DuckDuckGo and Google over the years, DuckDuckGo aims to block all trackers when people use its search engine. It doesn’t just single out Google.
Final Notes About FLoC
At this time, only the Google Chrome browser supports FLoC as a way of collecting data on users.
Google would like to see FLoC replace third-party cookies on a larger scale, but companies like DuckDuckGo are trying to prevent the technology from gaining momentum.
The growth of FLoC will ultimately depend on the results it delivers for advertisers.
Google says, in testing, FLoC is 95% as effective as third-party cookies. In practice it’s not yet known if those claims hold up.
Other than FLoC, Google has said it will not develop new ways to track users after it phases out third-party cookies.
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