Google is Scraping Tracking Cookies. Is It Any Good?
(Photo : Google is Scraping Tracking Cookies. Is It Any Good?)

Over a month ago, the search giant Google announced its plan to do away with tracking cookies on its ad network and Chrome browser by next year. According to Google, the third-party cookies will be replaced with a specific group profiling system that will help achieve a more "privacy-friendly web."

Undeniably, it's a significant change, but it begs the question; will you still be tracked?

Indeed, the change is a mammoth move for the ad business and a step in the right direction as much as privacy is concerned. Unfortunately, it doesn't mean that Google will not be collecting your data. Moreover, it means that it will still be using your data for targeting ads but on a different platform.

Google's New Cookies Alternative; FLoC

The Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is the proposed third-party cookies alternative. Ideally, it's the new means for several businesses to reach individuals with relevant content and ads by grouping them according to interests.

The main advantage is that the approach prevents the advertisers from targeting various people.

So, does Google's FLoC come with some flaws?

Unfortunately, as much as Google has been touting all the privacy advantages of the new mechanism, it has not given out much detail about the technology. However, it's a no-brainer to think that Google will come up with a weaker advertising tool with all the reputation and efforts to improve.

What's the difference between FLoC and third-party cookies?

Unlike tracking cookies that track your history from one site to another, FLoC uses your browsing history to cluster you into groups of people with similar interests. Each group is then assigned a FLoC ID, which can be used to serve you with relevant ads. Therefore, the only difference is that the analysis is done through FLoC and not through the cookies.

The Downside of Google's FLoC

It goes without saying that nothing will appear and not receive its fair share of criticism, and Google's FLoC is no exception. For instance, the privacy-first search engine, DuckDuckGo, has come all-out and announced its plans to block the technology through its browser extension as well as website.

According to them, their Chrome extension will automatically block all the FLoC interactions. It means that any user who searches through its search engine will receive an automatic opt-out from FLoC.

Another criticism has come from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whereby they claim that FLoC technology will only hurt privacy more than before. They argue that the technology will instead increase browser fingerprinting (a practice that collects several data points from user browsers to create identifiers." Furthermore, they point out "cross-content exposure" as a big issue with FLoC, a phenomenon that tracks user behavior.

How to Opt-Out of FLoC

It's crystal clear that Google is only starting to taste this new technology. Unfortunately, several users were added to testing automatically without notifications or even a mere warning.

Therefore, the only way to avoid FLoC is to delete your Chrome browser instead of using the privacy-focused alternative.

However, if you're reluctant to delete Chrome and that you want to continue using it, then you can avoid FLoC by doing the following;

  • First, you need to disable third-party cookies

  • Then log out of your Google account

  • Ensure that you prevent Chrome from syncing your browsing history data

  • Head to Google activity Controls and disable web & App activity, or, "include chrome history as well as activity from apps, sites, and all the devices that use Google services."

  • Get to Google Ad Settings and disable "Ad Personalization," and then deselect the option "Also use your activity & information from Google services to personalize ads on websites and apps that partner with Google to show ads."

Google is the primary beneficiary of this new "privacy boon." While most users are unlikely even to notice the difference, you'll be watched as well as targeted based on your online activity. The difference now is that you'll be watched as part of the group and not as an individual.

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