DuckDuckGo announced yesterday that it has updated its web browser extension to block Google’s new FLoC tracking method in Chrome.
“If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might be surprised to learn that you could have been entered automatically into Google’s new tracking method called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC),” DuckDuckGo explains. “It groups you based on your interests and demographics, derived from your browsing history, to enable creepy advertising and other content targeting without third-party cookies … Google decided not to make this new tracking method a user choice and instead started automatically including millions in the scheme. If you’re reading this in Chrome while logged in to a Google account, yes, that likely means you too, and if not now, then eventually.”
Google has spent years pretending to protect user privacy, but its products are designed to track you as you access Internet services across any devices you own and use. Its Chrome web browser is perhaps the worst offender because it’s the most popular way to access the web and it was designed specifically to track your activities and report them back to advertisers.
In 2017, Google pretended that it was adding an ad blocker to Chrome, but as I pointed out at the time, the online giant was really working with advertisers to help them “improve ads for consumers” and stop users from “blocking all ads, [which] takes a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.”
More recently, Google pretended that it would stop advertisers from tracking users in Chrome via third-party cookies and user-level identifiers. But all it’s really doing is creating a new way to track users and report that information back to advertisers. That new method is called FLoC.
“FLoC is bad for privacy,” DuckDuckGo asserts. “It puts you in a group based on your browsing history, and any website can get that group FLoC ID to target and fingerprint you.”
DuckDuckGo already makes a free web browser extension to truly block Google and other firms from tracking you online. And now it can prevent FLoC from doing its master’s bidding too.
“You can use the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension to block FLoC’s tracking, which is an enhancement to its tracker blocking and directly in line with the extension’s single purpose of protecting your privacy holistically as you use Chrome,” DuckDuckGo says. There’s just one caveat: This capability is “pending Chrome Web Store’s approval of [the] update” to the extension. So it’s hopefully coming soon.
Regardless, DuckDuckGo Search is configured to opt-out of FLoC, regardless if you use the extension or the DuckDuckGo app. So that one little tracking oasis will always be available.
You can download the DuckDuckGo web browser extension for Chrome and Microsoft Edge, and consider the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser on mobile.