The public has voted and the results are in: people do not want to be tracked. In response, like pop-up ads before them, third party cookies are now being blocked by default by just about every browser – except Chrome. Google (who owns Chrome) is an ad company who relies on web tracking to make 90% of their revenue. With the writing on the wall, they and other ad tech companies are scrambling to find other ways to track people. Google has proposed a new system they call Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, which they claim can replace most of the tracking capability of third party cookies while somehow managing to preserve users’ privacy. Today, I will discuss this new proposal with Bennett Cyphers of the Electronic Frontier Foundation: how it works, how they are rolling it out, and why EFF believes that FLoC is not the way to go.
Bennett Cyphers is a staff technologist on the Tech Projects team. He works with a variety of teams across EFF, focusing on consumer privacy, competition, and state legislation. He also assists with development on Privacy Badger. Outside of work he has hobbies and likes fun.
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- Google’s “Sensitivity of Cohorts” paper: https://docs.google.com/a/google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=Y2hyb21pdW0ub3JnfGRldnxneDo1Mzg4MjYzOWI2MzU2NDgw
- Google’s FLoC API spec: https://github.com/WICG/floc
- Am I FLoC’d? https://amifloced.org/
- Opt out of NHS data sharing: https://www.ft.com/content/9fee812f-6975-49ce-915c-aeb25d3dd748