Google has vowed to discard traditional third-party cookies to track users in its Chrome web browser. The move to improve privacy was quite controversial – a number of other web browsers were vocal about the upcoming change.
Cookies are currently used to identify you when you visit a new website. These can be very useful. When you add items to a shopping cart, go to another website and then return to the same retailer. The items you’ve already added are still there. This is only possible because the website knows who you are and records what you did on your last visit. Cookies are also used to target advertisements based on your browsing history, interests, and more.
What does Google’s latest announcement mean? Does the Californian company plan to stop tracking its users?
No. While cookies are to be removed from Chrome in the future, the same functionality will be enabled by replacing Google. The new technology called FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) was developed to improve the anonymity of browser users while collecting browser data for advertising purposes.
The Digital Rights Group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has criticized the proposed FLoC tracker. It is argued that this user behavior monitoring tool could continue to compromise the privacy of Chrome users. According to the advocacy group, Google “has not drawn the right lessons from the ongoing backlash against the surveillance business model”.
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“The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process. It can also exacerbate many of the worst behavioral non-privacy issues, including discrimination and predatory targeting, ”it warned.
Google is currently testing its FLoC replacement for cookies, but will not let Chrome users know if they will be included in the test.
EFF has launched a new website called Did i flee?This will allow those included in Google’s final round of testing to determine if they will be used as guinea pigs for the new tracking tools. According to Google, around 0.5 percent of users were included in the last test round.
That might sound like a pretty small amount. In view of the estimated number of Google Chrome with around 2.6 billion users worldwide, 13,250,000 Chrome users are counted even with a test version, in which 0.5 percent of all users are involved.
If you are not currently included in the FLoC trial, it does not mean that you will not be included in the future. It is widely expected that Google will continue the current round of testing through July 2021. By the end of the test phase, up to five percent of users will be represented worldwide, according to EFF. It adds, “The Chrome Origin Trial for FLoC was delivered to millions of random Chrome users with no warning and even less consent.”
According to EFF, the only way to bypass the new tracking technology is to switch to a different web browser. A popular alternative, Brave has also confirmed plans to close the new tracking system to all users.
Apple positions itself at the forefront of the data protection war, which is only getting warmer. With the upcoming iOS 14.5 update for the iPhone, which is expected to be released in the coming weeks, the user tracking business will be massively changed.
iOS apps that want to save your personal data, including Google and Facebook, must now ask for permission first. Facebook was quite vocal about these dialog boxes that explicitly state what data the application is trying to track and how it could damage its business model.