Google has been working to remove third-party tracking cookies from Chrome. The company has received a lot of negative feedback, including from the advertising industry, which does not feel confident in the company's new approach to the Privacy Sandbox. Now, additional criticism is coming in for Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), the approach to tracking users' interests, and it comes from a scary place: browsers and search engines.
Several privacy-focused brands, including browsers Brave and Vivaldi, as well as search engine DuckDuckGo, have pushed back on FLoC. While Google claims that it is intended to improve user privacy, these companies claim that it is actually worse than cookies. The selling point is that advertisers no longer get individual reports, but instead target based on common or shared browsing history.
Privacy advocates, however, point out that this requires a more detailed browsing history tracking than cookies ever did. To build a complete model of a user's browsing to determine interests, the system needs a lot of detailed information. While Google claims that these profiles and interest groups are built locally, that would require every browser to track, build, and report this history to Google. We know there is little chance that Microsoft is planing to report any tracking data to Google, so how can this concept possibly work?
The clear answer is, "Not well." The assessment comes from the announcement that Brave and Vivaldi will not be implementing the technology in their browsers. This comes as Google has begun testing the technology in Chrome for a number of users, without their knowledge or consent.
In addition, DuckDuckGo will block the technology by default. When it comes to privacy, it's clear that these companies are putting their money where their mouths are by standing up for the privacy concerns they see in Google's new offering.