Microsoft Doesn’t Commit to Blocking FLoC

Posted on April 16, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Google, Microsoft, Microsoft Edge, Web browsers with 38 Comments

Brave’s doing it. Vivaldi’s doing. Mozilla’s doing it. Even DuckDuckGo is doing it. But where does Microsoft land when it comes to blocking Google’s controversial FLoC technology for tracking users?

It’s not clear.

“We believe in a future where the web can provide people with privacy, transparency[,] and control while also supporting responsible business models to create a vibrant, open[,] and diverse ecosystem,” Microsoft told The Verge when asked if it would block FLoC. “Like Google, we support solutions that give users clear consent, and do not bypass consumer choice. That’s also why we do not support solutions that leverage non-consented user identity signals, such as fingerprinting. The industry is on a journey and there will be browser-based proposals that do not need individual user ids and ID-based proposals that are based on consent and first party relationships. We will continue to explore these approaches with the community. Recently, for example, we were pleased to introduce one possible approach, as described in our PARAKEET proposal. This proposal is not the final iteration but is an evolving document.”

Yikes. That is all kinds of wishy-washy, especially given the number of words it required. We were looking for a yes or no, Microsoft. Or at least a “we’re still examining this” response.

This statement is a confused mess. And an unfortunate example of Microsoft’s inability to communicate effectively.

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Comments (42)

42 responses to “Microsoft Doesn’t Commit to Blocking FLoC”

  1. Avatar

    darkgrayknight

    Yikes, exactly. This is a poor response for sure.

  2. Avatar

    anoldamigauser

    Sounds like weasel words to me. Perhaps they should all just realize that no one wants to be tracked around the web for the purpose of advertising.

  3. Avatar

    txag

    It's very clear. Microsoft is on Google's side but doesn't want to say so directly.

  4. Avatar

    JH_Radio

    For me, if I'm goin to see adds, and tracking me is gonna make me see adds I actually might be interested in, then I don't see why I shouldn't be tracked. My limited use of add blockers only makes it so sites say hey guess what? we see you're using an ad blocker, turn it off and we'll show you the content, or hey. we see you're using an add blocker turn it off so we can make money. and I've seen it in the middle of articles too. I'd rather pay to not see adds at all. Such as in Google news. I love google news but hate the adds. but I want to support the free content, too. So let me pay and get rid of the adds. If that's not an options, and sites need to depend on adds to keep their content free, then that means I need to see adds right? and so if I have to see add anyways, why block things that will target me? Why make it so that I see adds for things I would never consider or buy? Now having said that, using a reader view does help. But I've seen reader view not display things right, too. Now here's something I really don't get. Why show adds on Amazon and on eBay where i'm probably gonna be buying something anyway? So I'd love to hear the flip side of this. Its not even really possible to not be tracked is it? Its possible to make it not as pervasive sure. but to completely eliminate it? Unless you're using a tor browser maybe. but I'm not even sure if then. Here, I support this site because I wanna support the people who make the Magic Paul, Brad the others. but part of it for me is no adds, ever. I wish more sites did this. But do more sites not do it this way because they make more money in showing adds to people then they would in premium access? OK but then make the content free with ads but premium pay and don't get adds? I mean they do this on the Play store, the app store, why not on websites, too?

    • Avatar

      bleeman

      In reply to JH_Radio:

      I don't mind the ads so much. My biggest complaint is I don't need to see multiple ads for something I already bought! I mean, how refrigerators do these idiots think I'm going to buy at once? I also hate the ads that cover up part of an article and won't move out of the way so that you can actually read it.

  5. Avatar

    chrisrut

    It is difficult to communicate clearly about things which are cloudy.

  6. Avatar

    scovious

    I'd be happy with non targeted ads, like in papers, magazines and in public. I should be able to keep that preference even while online. Just because they can, doesn't mean they should.

    • Avatar

      samp

      In reply to scovious:

      Ads will always be slightly targeted. The Sun has different ads to the FT, targeted to different people. If that's alright, than more targeted TV ads (based on the type of station, time of day, etc) should also be alright. Etc, etc.

      I think the main issue is collecting data to show ads based on the person, rather than ads based on the content, targeted to the type who like that content.

    • Avatar

      dftf

      In reply to scovious:

      Ads in public, like billboards, aren't very targeted, yes, as any random person could walk or drive-by.


      But ads in newspapers are: you'll more likely get a GOP/Conservative ad in right-leaning papers, compared to Dem/Labour in left-leaning. And same for magazines: if you buy "Gardener's Weekly", expect to see adverts for weedkillers, fertilisers and seedlings more than you would elsewhere, and likewise ads for things like nail-varnish, shampoos, conditioners and hairdryers/blow-dryers if you pick-up "Hairstyles Today".


      Print-media has targeted ads for-sure.

  7. Avatar

    heliommsfilho

    I don't know about you, but for me, more than a decade using internet, I can't remember once a time that I clicked one of those "targeted ads". I am very skeptical about the real value of those target ads.


    Being targeted or not, most of people that I know don't click them.

    • Avatar

      samp

      In reply to heliommsfilho:

      I also thought that, but I think the real value for advertisers is now making you connect a product with them, so the next time you go looking for a product you will notice their product and lean towards it as its a known company to you.


      Additionally, I think its PR as well. I'm not going to buy a Mercedes or a new house (which is advertised to me), but its PR for those companies (as well as referring to the point above, I might be more likely to go to Mercedes when looking for a car).


      Yet, I agree the majority of targeted ads (most of mine involving subscriptions to freemium software) are useless without a brand image.

  8. Avatar

    dftf

    Paul: "Who cares about advertisers? Seriously."


    Me: *looks at homepage of this site with my ad-blocker disabled*... 4 adverts for "Cisco HyperFlex"; 1 advert for ionos.co.uk; 1 advert for TalkTalk broadband; 1 advert for "Simply Business" (covering both full and mobile versions of the site).


    So, to answer your question: you, apparently, as otherwise why not remove all ads from your own site?

  9. Avatar

    joferm

    Microsoft has confirmed that it will disable FLoC - at least for now.

    The only long term way forward is if an independent internet body is formed to handle data collection with personal integrity in focus. If this isn't done you can be sure that EU will come up with rules that will hurt more.

    The idea behind FLoC isn't horrible. If the individual has control of their FLoC data - can bloc FLoCs they do not want to be part of - and the handling and rules were done by an independent internet organization then I would be fine with it.

    Microsoft has an interesting proposal:

    https://github.com/WICG/privacy-preserving-ads/blob/main/Parakeet.md

  10. Avatar

    bmcdonald

    Ad Guard already has it - so I am covered.


    Cheers


    B

  11. Avatar

    untitled1

    Sounds like a "nah, we're not gonna block it, thanks for asking" to me.

  12. Avatar

    north of 49th

    Does anyone know if uBlock Origin will block FLoC?

  13. Avatar

    bart

    I think Microsoft still has too much to gain from working with Google. Hence a vague answer now. But when the time is right, maybe when FLoC lands, MS can speak out against the technology and grab headlines with its browser.

    Pure speculation of course...

    • Avatar

      Daishi

      In reply to Bart:

      My pure speculation is that they just don’t want to say anything too definitive about the paramount importance of user privacy that could get thrown back at them once they’re own replacement for cookies is ready.

  14. Avatar

    longhorn

    "Does anyone know if uBlock Origin will block FLoC?"


    Yes, it will. You can check uBlock Origin on GitHub. It seems the newest version already blocks FLoC.


    • Avatar

      miamimauler

      In reply to longhorn:

      uBlock Origin and Malwarebytes Browser Guard should take care of any of this Google shenanigans.


      When will Google (and MS moving forward too it seems) get it, while disgusted by ads most of us understand the need for them but most of us are uncomfortable at the thought of being tracked and will do everything we can do to fight it.


      I get there are those who like targeted ads but they are surely the minority.

  15. Avatar

    vladimir

    I already moved to Vivaldi a few weeks ago. I guess I’ll just stay there

  16. Avatar

    Calibr21

    Seems pretty clear to me. Edge will not support the current implementation of FLOC. However Microsoft believes there still needs to be a solution for advertisers to target ads effectively and they think the browser industry still needs to work on figuring out what that solution is.


    Microsoft knows it’s not in the webs best interest to have advertisers 100% blind on who is seeing their ads, but Googles FLOC isn’t the solution.

    • Avatar

      anoldamigauser

      In reply to Calibr21:

      "...it’s not in the webs best interest to have advertisers 100% blind on who is seeing their ads..."

      Why not? It worked just fine for print, radio and television for years. Do you actually see ads that match your interests, or are they just stuff you clicked on before, whether you are interested in purchasing or not. Ads on the internet are just flotsam and jetsam that gets in the way of seeing what one is interested in. The ones that I click through are generally just something fat-fingered on mobile that I have no use for, and no interest in seeing again.

      • Avatar

        dftf

        In reply to AnOldAmigaUser:

        "Ads on the internet are just flotsam and jetsam that gets in the way of seeing what one is interested in"


        Ads are necessary for many smaller sites to have an additional revenue-stream, as subs won't cover all costs. But my main issue with ads thesedays is how much content they cover, or the ones that autoplay video, especially with sound, or do those "floating videos" or banners where they endlessly stay-in-place as you scroll the page.


        Making ads less-annoying would definitely help matters.

    • Avatar

      Daekar

      In reply to Calibr21:

      Everyone seems to accept this idea that some degree of tracking is necessary... But why is that? Why is it not in the web's best interest for advertisers to be blind?

      • Avatar

        dftf

        In reply to Daekar:

        Well, when it comes to print-media you can kind of assume your audience there. Why place an ad for weedkiller in "Hairstylist Monthly" compared to "Gardener's Weekly", for example. Clearly the latter would be more-logical as you already know the people reading that magazine are going to be interested in the subject.


        With sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube -- user-generated content -- it's harder for advertisers as there isn't one main subject or theme to go-by. So without tracking they would have to pay a lot more to advertise to reach everyone, whereas tracking means a smaller ad budget as you can narrow-down your audience.

      • Avatar

        Paul Thurrott

        Who cares about advertisers? Seriously.

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