Tech

DuckDuckGo Releases Extension to Block Google’s FLoC Tracking

By Bill Toulas / April 10, 2021

Google’s decision to impose its new cookie-less tracking system onto a random subset of Chrome users has been met with numerous objections by privacy advocates and the internet community in general. However, the tech giant has pushed forward with the plan anyway. As a response, DuckDuckGo, the internet search engine that emphasizes user privacy, released a Chrome extension that promises to block FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) tracking for those who happen to have been selected as Google’s “guinea pigs.”

In summary, FLoC is Google’s new tracking system that puts users into larger groups instead of tracking them as individuals. The idea is to continue gathering valuable information that can generate targeted advertising revenue while still respecting people’s anonymity.

One problem with it is that the cookie system, which was supposed to be replaced by FLoC, is still here, so Google is now using two tracking methods that supplement each other. Moreover, persistent FLoC IDs make it easy to de-mask user anonymity when you have such rich data sets in your hands. And finally, Google is not asking for the users' consent to take part in the testing of the new tracking system, so it's being forced.

DuckDuckGo’s extension is actually not just stopping the FLoC, but is also increasing encryption protection by forcing sites to use HTTPS, decodes privacy policies, and grades them so that the user can get an idea of the level of privacy invasion without having to read pages of text - and blocks all hidden third-party trackers. So, it’s a holistic solution for those who value their privacy, and the blocking of the FLoC system is just an aspect of its functionality.

To figure out if you are in the small percentage of people who are involuntarily taking part in the trial of FLoC, test your browser on this webpage. If you are being “FloCed” and you don’t want to use blocking extensions, you may simply stop using Google Chrome. If you can’t or don’t want to do that either, at least stay logged out of your Google account, disable “Web & App Activity,” and disable “Ad Personalization” from your browser's settings. These seem to do the trick in excluding users from the FLoC trial, at least for now.



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