DuckDuckGo has slammed Google’s new ad tracking method, saying it is bad for privacy and puts the users in a group based on their browsing history, and any website can get that group ID to target and fingerprint them. Google’s new FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is a technology to provide users with a more privacy-focused way of tracking them and serving ads. The company will implement FLoC in Chrome and it will automatically be turned on for all of its users.
According to DuckDuckGo, 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.
“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,” the company said in a statement on Friday. “After a short trial period, 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,” it added.
It has urged people to block FLoC’s tracking and protect their privacy.
“Don’t use Google Chrome! Right now FLoC is only in Google Chrome, and no other browser vendor has expressed an intention or even interest to implement it. There are various browsers that are free to download, and we recommend some in our guide to Google alternatives,” it argued. “On iOS or Android, we suggest you use our own mobile browser, which offers best-in-class privacy protection by default when searching and browsing”.
The company said that in response to Google automatically turning on FLoC, it has enhanced the tracker blocking in its own Chrome extension to block FLoC interactions on websites.
“This is directly in line with the single purpose of our extension of protecting your privacy holistically as you use your browser. It’s privacy, simplified,” said DuckDuckGo.
The company is waiting for Google to approve its updated Chrome extension, and the update should appear in the Chrome Web Store soon.
“Don’t sync your history data with Chrome, or create a sync passphrase;
In Google Activity Controls, disable “Web & App Activity” or “Include Chrome history and activity from sites, apps, and devices that use Google services,” it advised.
The company said that while Google isn’t phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome until at least 2023, FLoC is already live today in 2021. Websites can also take steps to protect the privacy of their users by opting out of FLoC, which would be applicable to all their visitors.
Launched in 2008, DuckDuckGo’s search engine is far behind Google but the latest controversies around user data privacy has helped it gain momentum like Telegram and Signal. DuckDuckGo has been selected as the default search engine in the highly-secure chat platform Tor Browser, and is often the default search engine in the private browsing modes of several other browsers.
The average number of searches on Google per day reaches close to 50 million, while Google processes more than 3.5 billion search queries a day.