DuckDuckGo’s Browser Extension Blocks FLoC Now

Posted on April 10, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Google, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Web browsers with 18 Comments

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.


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Comments (19)

19 responses to “DuckDuckGo’s Browser Extension Blocks FLoC Now”

  1. Saarek

    I still don’t get why people use Chrome over Safari or Firefox.

    It was obvious to me when it first came out that it was just another way for them to harvest your personal data and it’s terribly optimised, an absolute system performance hog.

    • ringofvoid

      In reply to Saarek: When Chrome came out standards compliance was just a pipe dream thanks to years of Microsoft Internet Explorer. Firefox was the only one fighting the good fight. Chrome came in and boosted standards compliance and was a good thing. Years have past and everyone has turned to hating on Chrome forgeting that it is charitably based on the chromium open source project that is open for many browsers like Vivaldi and Edge to use.

    • bettyblue

      In reply to Saarek:

      I am huge Apple/Mac fan but Safari is still not a good option on Mac today. I truly wish it was.

      There are some web pages I use for work that just do not work with Safari. Also Apple messed up what little extension support Safari had. Ublock Orgin is hands down the best ad blocker I have used. It no longer works with Safari.

      I personally use Microsoft Edge because it strips out the "Google" factor and has all of the compatibility of Chrome when it comes too websites, plus massive extension support. Right now I am using Ublock Origin and the DuckDuck Go extension. Not much getting past that combination. I never see ads in YouTube.

  2. webdev511

    uBlock Origin for Firefox or just suck it up and setup a Pi-Hole that does the same thing. Oh and don't use Chrome. I really wish there was a good way to fix browser fingerprinting too. (There probably is, but I have yet to dive into that particular rabbit hole.

  3. bsobotta

    As a user of ad blocking and tracking blocking. I just subscribed to Paul's premium service. Been meaning to do this forever.

  4. ken10

    Ironic article. I installed the DuckDuckGo extension to find 10 trackers blocked on this site. I like Paul, but the trackers. not so much.

  5. bart

    Is the extension through the Microsoft Store different from the one t=in the Chrome Extension Store? In other words, can Edge users get the updated extension circumventing the Chrome Store?

  6. angusmatheson

    I’m supporting Firefox . It seems just as fast. When I looked at the last usage of figures that were way down, I figured it was going away if people didn’t use it. So I had better start using it. Have been delighted with the switch. (I know Firefox only exists because google gives it millions of dollars every year to stay in business so chrome appears to have competition .)

  7. Cdorf

    The only thing I don't like about this is it forces you to use DDG as the search. It changes your default and the only way to change it back is to disable the extension. We use Bing as it searches Enterprise and the web. I had to disable this ext to get my enterprise features back.

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