Google promises not to create backdoor in FLoC, replacement for cookies | Applications and Software

Google is bidding farewell to third-party cookies to adopt a new tool that measures user group data and sells online ads, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). But there is concern among digital advertisers that big tech will make exceptions for itself as it forces others to comply with the new privacy rule — creating an advantage for itself, or a “backdoor”.

Google FLoC (Image: Disclosure / Google)

FLoC replaces cookies, but may give Google an advantage

Jerry Dischler, vice president and general manager of Ads at Google, says the Privacy Sandbox open API — a new set of privacy tools — offered to advertisers will be the same used by big tech. “We will use this [Privacy Sandbox] for our own ads and measurement solutions like everyone else, and we’re not going to build a backdoor for ourselves,” he explains.

A backdoor, in this case, would be Google forcing others to use FLoC, which limits the capture and measurement of data and the role of the advertiser, while big tech has access to more detailed user information and can gain an advantage — illegal in the case. The new tool that will replace third-party cookies was the subject of an antitrust investigation by the UK government.

FLoC – Federated Cohort Learning, in free translation – basically stops tracking the activity of a single user while browsing to collect data from groups of people and sell it to advertisers. Google’s new tool will offer advertisements to Nintendo fans, rather than targeting a single user who clicked on a news story about Switch, for example.

Google has made it clear that it will be able to use its own tools to obtain individual user data — contrary to FLoC itself. Big tech did not confirm on Thursday’s Google Marketing Livestream whether it will include Chrome or YouTube in that category.

EFF calls Google’s new tool a “terrible idea”

Big technology firms and digital advertisers question the change to Google’s privacy tool. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls FLoC “a terrible idea”, as it would be masking a new, more sophisticated generation of tracking that goes beyond cookies.

“It’s not about whether or not it’s a backdoor,” Amanda Martin, vice president of corporate partnerships at digital ad agency Goodway Group, told reporters Digiday. “It’s defining what can be considered a tool that Google owns or operates, and how [anunciantes] they see this category in conjunction with their primary data… Google’s ecosystem is complicated as it owns a lot of tools.”

At the event, Jerry Dischler reaffirmed Google’s view that third-party cookies are an outdated tool: “third-party cookies and other identifiers by which some [anunciantes] of the industry are advocating do not match the high expectations of consumers when it comes to privacy. They must not withstand the rapid evolution of regulation; and are not viable in the long term.”

How to disable FLoC on your Google Chrome

FLoC can now be tested by Chrome users in Brazil. O Techblog below shows you step by step how to block Google’s new data collection tool. It can be enabled in the main browser settings menu.

From the main menu screen, go to the “Privacy and Security” section. Click on the option “Cookies and data from other websites”. Enable the option to “block third-party cookies”.

Option to block third-party cookies (Image:Playback)

Option to block third-party cookies in the Privacy and Security tab (Image:Reproduction)

On Android this setting is different. Click on “site settings” and then select Cookies and enable the option to “block all third party cookies from websites”.

To access Privacy Sandbox, you must manually activate the trial version by going to chrome://flags/#privacy-sandbox-settings-2. Set some functions to enabled and then click Relaunch. When returning to the Privacy and Security settings, the new option should appear.

New option to enable Privacy Sanbox (Image: Playback)

New option to enable Privacy Sanbox (Image: Playback)

The function appears to be off, but it may be active if the user participates in the FLoC test. This has been tested on Google Chrome version 90.0.4430.212.

Google's new Privacy Sandbox tool can be disabled or enabled (Image: Playback)

Google’s new Privacy Sandbox tool can be disabled or enabled (Image: Playback)

With information: Digiday and Android Police

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