Google tried to convince ad tech companies to pursue its own privacy sandbox initiative, which the company repeated at a recent marketing event. Google VP Jerry Dischler stated that the company will stick to its own FLoC technology and not build a backdoor to gain an advantage.
We will use this [Privacy Sandbox] APIs for our own ads and measurement products as for everyone else, and we won’t be building backdoors for ourselves.
The statement as reported by DigiDay, can be seen as Google in mitigation as the industry criticizes the company’s move to replace browser cookies.
Google is promoting the initiative as a way to protect user privacy while delivering results similar to third-party cookies to advertisers. Rather than using individual IDs to identify and track users, the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) intends to group users based on their browsing habits. According to Google, “individual users are indistinguishable within a single cohort.”
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Meanwhile, advertising companies haven’t taken the new approach lightly as it could give Google more control over online ads or get the upper hand by bypassing its own privacy sandbox initiative. The company is already facing a massive lawsuit in several states alleging that Google has an unfair monopoly on ads on the internet, which only adds to the growing trust issues with Google and FLoC.
When speaking to Android headquarters, Google reiterated its position, saying it “has made a public commitment not to create alternate identifiers to track people while they browse the web”.
However, others are not convinced that technology is the best option to replace cookies. Several companies behind some of the best Android browsers have already blocked the new technology and have since affirmed their position.
DuckDuckGo was one of the companies that openly spoke out against FLoC. A spokesman said Android headquarters that this does not change anything. “FLoC is still bad for privacy and this announcement doesn’t change how much data Google collects about its users.”
Peter Snyder, a senior privacy researcher at Brave, said that not building a backdoor “doesn’t make FloC any less harmful to the web” and that Brave has not changed his stance on technology. “FLoC will particularly share new information about you with first-party websites that you have identifying accounts with (and will also share any third party embedded on those websites with).” Snyder says that Google’s words should be treated with caution, “given its track record of exploiting user privacy for its bottom line.”
Vivaldi was not immediately available for comment.
Despite the setbacks, Google remains committed to the initiative in hopes of getting rid of online cookies that may be considered invasive. However, the company has to work harder to convince advertisers, consumers, and even other web browsers that FLoC is a viable replacement.
FLoC is enabled by default for anyone using the Chrome browser. For those of you who don’t want to take part in the first tests, we can explain how to block Google’s FLoC web tracking.
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