Frank Camuglia

April 14, 2021


What Is FLoC?

FLoC is a recent Google Chrome algorithm that has your browser share your browsing behavior and interests by default with every site and advertiser with which you interact.  READ THAT AGAIN!

With FLoC, by simply browsing the web, you are automatically placed into a group based on your browsing history (“cohort”). Websites you visit will immediately be able to access this group FLoC ID and use it to target ads or content at you. It’s like walking into a store where they already know all about you! In addition, while FLoC is purported to be more private because it is a group, combined with your IP address (which also gets automatically sent to websites) you can continue to be tracked easily as an individual. 
- Duck Duck Go Browser

FLoC is Harmful to Web Users

The worst aspect of FLoC is that it materially harms user privacy, under the guise of being privacy-friendly. We note here just three aspects of FLoC that are particularly harmful and concerning.

1. FLoC Tells Sites About Your Browsing History
FLoC shares information about your browsing behavior with sites and advertisers that otherwise wouldn’t have access to that information.

2. FLoC Makes it Easier For Sites To Track You Across The Web
FLoC adds an enormous amount of fingerprinting surface to the browser, as the whole point of the feature is for sites to be able to distinguish between user interest-group cohorts. This "fingerprint" is your online profile across the web. This gives them a way to actually track you wherever you go online.

3. FLoC Promotes A False Notion of What Privacy Is, and Why Privacy Is Important
Google notes that some categories (sexual orientation, medical issues, political party, etc.) will be exempt from FLoC, and that they are looking into other ways of preventing “sensitive” categories from being used in FLoC. Google’s approach here is fundamentally wrong.

First, Google’s approach to determining whether a FLoC cohort is sensitive requires (in most cases) Google to record and collect that sensitive cohort in the first place! A system that determines whether a cohort is “sensitive” by recording how many people are in that sensitive cohort doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Second, and more fundamental, the idea of creating a global list of “sensitive categories” is illogical and immoral. Whether a behavior is “sensitive” varies wildly across people.

The point isn’t that Google’s list of “sensitive cohorts” will be missing important items. The point, rather, is that a “privacy preserving system” that relies on a single, global determination of what behaviors are “privacy sensitive,” fundamentally doesn’t protect privacy, or even understand why privacy is important.

It is disappointing to see Google, instead of taking the present opportunity to help design and build a user-first, privacy-first Web, proposing and immediately shipping in Chrome a set of smaller, ad-tech-conserving changes, which explicitly prioritize maintaining the structure of the Web advertising ecosystem as Google sees it.
- Brave Browser

FLoC is Harmful to Sites and Publishers

While our primary concerns with FLoC are around the privacy harms to users, FLoC is also harmful to some sites. Default FLoC behavior will leak and share user behavior on your site, which will harm sites that have high trust, or highly private relationships, with their users.

If you’re concerned about Google’s FLoC, the easiest thing is to avoid Chrome altogether.
There are a few great Browsers out there that are dedicated to protecting your privacy.

Personally, at SMR Website Design, I use Brave Browser exclusively on my laptop as well as my phone. Brave is built on the same platform as Chrome and even allows the use of Chrome Extensions. It is light, and fast and Chrome users will feel right at home using it.

Vivaldi and Duck Duck Go are two other great browsers that offer the same privacy settings, although with Duck Duck Go, you will need to add an extension to block FLoC.

These browsers are all FREE of course.

Browser Links:

  1. Brave
  2. Vivaldi
  3. Duck Duck Go

Hopefully this information helps you decide as to what level of privacy you want in your online browsing.
I know since I began using Brave over a year ago, I have noticed less ads in my social media feeds.

- information for this article contains findings from Brave Browser and XDA Developers

Frank Camuglia
SMR Website Design

Phone/Text: 1-516-387-6868