The FLoc Disperses: Are There Sheep Called Topics?

February 9, 2022

It looks like that FLoC thing is not working out for Google after all, so now it is trying another cookie-alternative called Topics. According to Inc., with this move, “Google Just Gave You the Best Reason Yet to Finally Quit Using Chrome.” Writer Jason Aten explains:

“Google said it would introduce an alternative known as Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC. The short version is that Chrome would track your browsing history and use it to identify you as a part of a cohort of other users with similar interests. … The thing is, no one likes FLoC. Privacy experts hate it because it’s not actually more private just because the tracking and profiling happens in your browser. Advertisers and ad-tech companies don’t like FLoC because, well, they like cookies. They’d mostly prefer Google just leave things alone since cookies are what let them know exactly when you click on an ad, put something in your cart, and buy it. Now, Google is introducing an alternative it calls Topics. The idea is that Chrome will look at your browsing activity and identify up to five topics that it thinks you’re interested in. When you visit a website, Chrome will show it three of those topics, with the idea that the site will then show you an ad that matches your interest.”

Of course, all Chrome users will be enrolled in Topics by default. Google will provide a way to opt out, but it is well aware most users will not bother. If privacy is really important, why not just do away with targeted advertising altogether? Do not be silly—ad revenue is what Google is all about, even when it tries to pretend otherwise. Aten notes that Safari and Brave both allow users to block third-party cookies and neither had planned to support FLoC. Other browsers have ways to block them, too. According to this write-up, it is time to give up on Chrome altogether and choose a browser that actually respects users’ privacy.

Cynthia Murrell, February 10, 2022


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta