back to article Google's FLoC flopped, boffins claim, because it failed to provide promised privacy

Computer scientists from MIT Media Lab have exhumed the corpse of Google's FLoC ad targeting scheme and found that it lacked its key advertised ingredient: privacy. FLoC stands for Federated Learning of Cohorts. It consists of computer code designed to deliver interest-based ads without the privacy problems of current cookie- …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "That counts for something"

    Yeah. Google will get a nice gold star for the effort.

    Meanwhile, I will continue to avoid using Chrome for anything but my gmail, and using Firefox+NoScript+uBlock Origin for my general surfing needs.

    Ads ? They're useless, privacy-invading AND a security menace.

    1. iron Silver badge

      Re: "That counts for something"

      Why use Chrome for GMail? It works in Firefox.

      Why even use Gmail? You're allowing them to read every email you send and recieve which could be a lot more privacy invading than monitoring your browsing habits.

      1. northernnoel

        Re: "That counts for something"

        Couple of years ago I switched to ProtonMail. Couldn't imagine going back now.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          Re: "That counts for something"

          About 20 years ago, I switched to self-hosted email on my own domain, and my own server.

          The main reason for that at the time was corpses giving up the ghost. Maybe not such a problem now, but I am still self-hosting my email.

        2. NoneSuch Silver badge

          Re: "That counts for something"

          Sounds about right. We ask Google for privacy and they give us the bird.

      2. Woodnag

        There's Chromium...

        Ungoogled version for Win here:

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: "That counts for something"

      Ever since browser fingerprinting became a thing, even FF+NoScript+Ublock won't protect you.

      Go to and you'll likely find you're not as unidentifiable as you would like

  2. b0llchit Silver badge

    Real privacy solution

    What if they simply stop tracking you? That would be a real privacy solution.

    But I fear the data-holics could not cope with the withdrawal symptoms and might vanish by implosion. Hm, why should I fear this scenario?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Real privacy solution

      Well, there's always the remote possibility that you might get hit by the splatter. Could be untidy.

      PPE, obvs. --->

      1. b0llchit Silver badge

        Re: Real privacy solution

        The splatter would be acceptable. The smell of decaying bodies and the exposed skeletons may be less enjoyable. But then, the smell will go away and we'll be free.

        I graciously accept the time limited discomfort of splatter and smell.

        [disposable coat will keep some of the spatter away]

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "In theory, websites implementing FLoC could send a visitor's cohort identification number to an ad server and fetch an ad likely to align with the visitor's past browsing behavior without being able to surmise the identity of the visitor"

    Or they could simply use the old 'dead trees' method and serve up ads based on the website's own criteria... motoring sites displaying motoring ads, cookery sites displaying food and drink ads... no tracking needed, no weird 'predictions' about buying habits, no ads following you round the 'net

    Perhaps it could mean the return of those ads for giant slippers for keeping both feet warm that used to appear in the back of the Saturday papers...

    1. b0llchit Silver badge

      But you need oil with your cooking, don't you? Motor oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, same, same. And, what about those dinners in the car? You've been hungry driving, so you certainly need those.

      Don't dismiss the predictive power and complete combinatorics of the advertising industry. They know you. Governments are very envious.

      [was that an oil coat?]

      1. Ace2 Silver badge

        “Frequently bought together: Ford F-150 + Chevy S-10, buy both and save $3.99”

  4. Ace2 Silver badge

    Raytheon World Peace Missiles

    Monsanto Biodiversity Spray

    Goodyear Squirrel-Massaging Tires

    Starbucks SleepyTime Brew

    …. All less ridiculous than Google privacy ads

    1. iron Silver badge

      > Goodyear Squirrel-Massaging Tires

      Michelin make racing tires from orange peel, does that count?

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Hmmm, Citrus fresh tyre smoke!

    2. bazza Silver badge

      "Raytheon World Peace Missiles"

      Well, if you have enough of them and then never have to fire them, they kinda are World Peace Missiles.

      (sales brochure extract)...

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    The snag.

    Nobody actually wants targetted ads chucked at them and many will actually go out of their way to avoid this.

    Thus, anything that requires user action, software installation or update, consent and/or makes its actions at all visible is so dead it's unbelievable.

    Or put simply, if it's legal it won't work.

    1. Spanners Silver badge

      Re: The snag.

      Nobody actually wants targetted ads chucked at them...

      I totally agree. So why do I get the occasional winge that, without being able to build a profile on me, they will not be able to send me relevant ads?

    2. spold Silver badge

      Re: The snag.

      ...but by using someone's browser the ads give you great clues as to what they are into - ooo-err vicar.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: The snag.

      I suggest that nobody actually wants ads chucked at them at all - targeted or otherwise. If you're in the market for something, you'll seek it out; otherwise, an advert is theft of your limited time, your bandwidth, your processing, your power.

      Far too many websites (and their associated companies) exist *only* to push adverts. Surely there is a better way of funding entertainment on the internet than a US model from the forties designed to sell soap?

  6. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

    > However, FLoC was not entirely without merit. The researchers note that while there's a relationship between sensitive user demographics like race and income and browsing behavior, the FLoC algorithm they tested did not group users into cohorts based on race or income. That counts for something.

    So... it didn't even work? I mean: "our ad targeting mechanism did not create cohorts based on income" should make you do a double-take. One would think income is the single most important dimension for ad targeting.

    "Our ad grouping algorithm is so privacy preserving, it can't even detect spending money."

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