Brave announced today that it is working to disable Google’s new Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) tracking method. It’s currently blocking FLoC tracking in the Nightly versions of Brave on desktop and Android, and it will push that change into the stable versions in the weeks ahead.
“FLoC materially harms user privacy under the guise of being privacy-friendly,” Brave’s Peter Snyder and Brendan Eich explain. “FLoC tells sites about your browsing history, [it] makes it easier for sites to track you across the web, [and it] promotes a false notion of what privacy is, and why privacy is important.”
For those unfamiliar, FLoC is a Google proposal in which your browser will share your browsing behavior and interests with every website and advertiser with which you interact. But the online giant is promoting it as being more privacy-friendly than the current system in which advertisers use third-party cookies and other trackers to follow users around the web.
But as I wrote in a recent article about a DuckDuckGo browser extension that also blocks FLoC, Google is being deceptive about this technology, which is really just a new way to track users and report that information back to advertisers. And like DuckDuckGo and now Brave, I strongly recommend that all users do what they can do to block FLoC, just as they hopefully block tracking today. It is, as Brave says, just a “Titanic-level deckchair-shuffling.”
“Any new privacy-risking features on the web should be opt-in,” Brave notes. “This is a common-sense principle to respect Web users by default. One might wonder why Google isn’t making FLoC opt-in. We suspect that Google has made FLoC opt-out (for sites and users) because Google knows that an opt-in, privacy harming system would likely never reach the scale needed to induce advertisers to use it.”
I strongly recommend reading the Brave blog post, which makes an excellent case for blocking FLoC.