Earlier this month, Google began testing a new user tracking technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), and recently, but journalists noticed that FLoC is still disabled in Microsoft Edge.FLoC organizes users into anonymous segments or “cohorts” based on their interests and online behaviour.
Unlike third-party cookies used by advertisers to track behaviour and interests across different sites, FLoC is built into the browser itself, which categorizes people into specific “cohorts” and transfers this information to sites and advertisers.
Bleeping Computer notes that Google developers have enabled FLoC support in Google’s Chromium by default, that is, other companies that develop Chromium-based browsers (including Microsoft Edge) will also automatically install this component, unless they specifically disable it. As journalists noted, in Microsoft Edge FLoC is disabled, and the component is not available in the browser, even if user enables it using the command line.
When the publication asked the developers for comment on this issue, Microsoft did not give a definite answer, but insiders say that while the company plans to wait and watch how FLoC develops before moving to any specific platform.
“We believe in a future where the Internet can provide people with privacy, transparency and control, and support responsible business models to create a vibrant, open and diverse ecosystem. Like Google, we support solutions that allow users to express clear consent and do not try to circumvent consumer choices. That is why we do not support solutions that use user identification signals without their consent, including fingerprinting. The industry is evolving and we will continue to explore different approaches together with the community”, — Microsoft engineers write.
The company’s experts also mention their PARAKEET project, which is also one of the alternatives to third-party cookies: here the user ID is known only to the proxy server, where it is carefully distorted by statistical “noise” and only after that is transmitted to the advertiser.
Many other developers have voiced concerns about FLoC in the past:
- EFF experts immediately criticized the technology, calling it a “terrible idea“;
- the authors of Vivaldi and Brave have already abandoned the use of FLoC in their browsers;
- DuckDuckGo blocks FLoC using the Privacy Essentials Chrome extension;
- WordPress is discussing automatic blocking of FLoC on sites managed by this CMS;
- Apple hasn’t made any official announcements about FLoC, but Safari developer John Wilander said the company intends to wait and see what happens next.
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