back to article What the FLoC? Browser makers queue up to decry Google's latest ad-targeting initiative as invasive tracking

Google's FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) mechanism for ad personalisation, currently being trialled in the Chrome browser, has been rejected as privacy-invasive tracking by other browser makers including Vivaldi and Brave. FLoC is part of what Google calls the Privacy Sandbox initiative, a proposal to "support business …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It's time to flush the toilet

    Goodbye Chrome

    1. aidanstevens

      Re: It's time to flush the toilet

      Say hello to Vivaldi, it's a breath of fresh air.

      1. Stanislav Bonita

        Re: It's time to flush the toilet

        I've always found Vivaldi to be slow, so I use Brave which (for me) feels much faster.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Tom Chiverton 1

    Ad-tech company's suggestion to centralise ad tracking with themselves turns out to be terrible idea for every one else. Shock

    1. Halfmad

      Ironically may be the push some users needed to look at alternatives.

      I'm not sure moving to Brave (which I use) is a great idea, probably best leaving Chromium based browsers entirely.

  3. Wolfclaw

    Won't FLOC just fall in to the same privacy/owner argument that IPs and cookies are currently embroiled in. Can't see the EU liking this idea.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      They won't. If they ever look at it. Just like they won't like what Google currently does, just they haven't gotten around to checking what Google's doing. It's been busy. They've only had three years of GDPR to spend investigating those things.

  4. martyn.hare
    Trollface

    Ooga booga!

    Better Adblock your computer!

    Simples.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Ooga booga!

      Not so simple when ad-blocker-blockers and adwalls get thrown up, especially for sites with no substitutes...

      1. DryBones

        Re: Ooga booga!

        1) Ad-blocker-blockers only show up when ScriptSafe lets them.

        2) Then I go elsewhere. There are always substitutes.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Ooga booga!

          1) Sites like Medium use new tricks that can work without scripts or require scripting to render the site.

          2) Official or government sites cannot be assumed to have safe substitutes. Never assume a substitute exists.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    "while websites and advertisers could opt in, users were not asked permission"

    Insert quote about if it's free, you're not the customer, you're the product being sold here.

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: "while websites and advertisers could opt in, users were not asked permission"

      Even if it's not free, you're still the product being sold. Why would a company leave free money on the table?

  6. croc

    "Do No Evil" has morphed into "Do No More Evil Than Facebook"

    1. Stanislav Bonita

      Or "do evil but spin it".

  7. DryBones
    Thumb Down

    Pot, Kettle

    So DuckDuckGo is making a big to-do about their privacy extension for Chrome. What they don't tell you is that when you use it it locks your browser search functionality to DuckDuckGo. You can't choose anything else, you have to disable the extension if you don't want DuckDuckGo hijacking your search bar.

    Uninstalled and reported.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Uninstalled and reported.

      "I installed this extension to use DuckDuckGo and it made my browser use DuckDuckGo until I uninstalled it. I am outraged by my inability to understand that other search engines don't respect my privacy. Please remove this add-in as it stops people sharing their data with Google"

      Something along those lines?

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Uninstalled and reported.

        For the most part, yes, I agree. But if the user really wants to use Google, or Bing or Ecosia etc. that should still be their choice.

        That said, there are other choices for privacy add-ons if the user isn't happy with DDG.

      2. DryBones
        Thumb Down

        Re: Uninstalled and reported.

        I'm sorry, what part of, "I am willing to try DDG's tracker and ad blocking functionality while using my choice of search provider," did you not understand?

        ScriptSafe and Adblock Plus manage to offer these things without being grabby about the search box. It was not a restriction that was advertised and made known previous to install. This sort of We Know Better Than You What You Want is the reason I will never buy an Apple product.

        So take your condescending attitude and shove it up your ass.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Pot, Kettle

      I installed it in Firefox and I switched to Ecosia for search, it hasn't stopped me. (I use DDG as my search engine anyway, so I tried to confirm your statement. At least on Firefox, that isn't true, you can select any search engine you want.)

      If it is forcing the change on Chromium browsers, that is bad. I get they are trying to make the experience more private, and it is, after all, a plug-in for a search engine provider. But they should still respect the user's search choice, even if that defeats the whole point of using the DDG add-on.

    3. Jonjonz

      Re: Pot, Kettle

      Wrong, I use the privacy extension, and I can go to Google or any other search engine if I choose, the extension just makes DDG the default.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now chrome is becoming the IE of the 90s

    People were warned that chrome becoming dominant would be a problem, but many were just glad it wasn't Microsoft.

    What's stopping Google abandoning chromium and doing all further development private direct to closed-source chrome? Will brave/Vivaldi etc. be able to keep up with development on their own?

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Now chrome is becoming the IE of the 90s

      It's worse.

      MS business model was to sell Windows, Office and some other SW and a little HW.

      Google's business model is to use people's private behaviour to sell adverts.

      The entire business model and method of operation of Google, Facebook and similar needs outlawed world wide. A threat to Democracy, Dictatorships, personal privacy and Commerical competition. Immoral and in some aspects already illegal.

  9. Adelio Silver badge

    I do not want ads

    I may be how google (and others make money) in part but it does not mean I want ads, let alone personalised ads.

    I get sick and tired of seeing emailed etc about products I have looked at or bought.

    If I want to buy something I will look for it. If I have already bought something why would i want to buy another.

    Please do not send me ads ,ANY ads, EVER!

  10. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Mushroom

    "... relevant advertising that’s fundamental to maintain a free and open web."

    I give them a warm and heartfelt "fuck you, with a rake" for that line alone.

  11. Cincinnataroo

    Surely all that has to happen is that users get to opt-in to these technologies.

    Off by default, you actively decide.

    That includes the guinea pigs at present.

    You can check whether you've been press-ganged into it. The EFF has something on their site called "Am I FLoCed? A New Site to Test Google's Invasive Experiment".

    You could also come up with inventive ways to make your FLoC cohort a thing of great fun and irrelevance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You could also come up with inventive ways to make your FLoC cohort a thing of great fun and irrelevance.

      I'm going to create a fake cohort with a propensity for incontinence pads, glue & goat's cheese, and let them try working that one out...

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        yeah about those cohorts - I didn't see how the cohort you belong to is determined, nor whether they analyze whether your click behavior differs from the others, so that you might be "switched" to a different one that more closely aligns with your specific online behavior.

        And ANOTHER possibility: If there just happen to be 5 billion cohorts, each with a member of one... well I guess that's the same as a TRACKING ID now!

        I can see the possibility of "cohort membership" being shifted around, based on AI analyzed online behavior patterns, such that you eventually end up in a cohort where everyone else is pretty much the same as you, for tracking and advertising purposes.

        Then it doesn't matter about privacy at all - it becomes "group" behavior for all of the tracking and manipulation and anything else that goes along with it. But they don't "know" it's "you" specifically... after all they no longer NEED to. So they CIRCUMVENT the GDPR and other regulations that prevent them from DIRECTLY tracking, but conveniently they can do GROUP BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS. Except now, you've been "analyzed" into being a member of a group of people that is very similar to you, and all privacy protections are now (effectively) OFF.

        And not even the best anonymized Tor-capable "purge cache and history on exit" browser [as long as it supports "cohorts" in any way] would prevent you from being TRACKED.

        If _I_ can see how to do this, SO CAN THEY.

  12. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    "relevant advertising that’s fundamental to maintain a free and open web"

    Well, then, Google, explain to me how internet websites thrived in a time when relevant advertising wasn't even thought of? Non-annoying, non-tracking ads worked quite well when the internet went from luxury to necessity. If it worked then, why does it not work now?

  13. grizewald

    "we’ll introduce a control in Chrome Settings that users can use to opt out of inclusion in FLoC and other Privacy Sandbox proposals while they’re in trials."

    How about asking first instead? I guess the "while they're in trials" bit means that once the trial is over, you don't even get the choice to opt out.

    More ammo for Max Schrems!

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      About 1% of Chrome's users will even know that Google is trialling something anyway, the rest will live on in blissful ignorance with their third party cookies enabled because they've never used the settings page either.

  14. Pseu Donyme

    It is still a profile and therefore subject the GDPR* which should mean opt-in consent.

    *GDPR Recital 72 : "Profiling is subject to the rules of this Regulation governing the processing of personal data, such as the legal grounds for processing or data protection principles." (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2016/679/oj)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds exactly like Chinas Uber surveillance system that puts you into undesirable classification if you are not a good consumer/worker or step out of line. F*ck GooseYou.

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