Category: Google|Jun 12, 2021 | Author: Admin

Mozilla skeptical: Google wants to end third-party cookies

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Google has put forward a proposal on how targeted ad tracking can be set up without exposing users to risk. Eric Rescorla, technical director of Mozilla Firefox, believes the proposal has a number of aspects that could pose a "significant privacy risk".

Google cohort
Google believes that "Federated Learning of Cohorts" (FLoC) can replace third-party cookies for ad tracking, but Rescorla points out in an analysis published yesterday, major privacy issues built into the system.

FLoC is an attempt to switch the advertising system from user-based to group-based tracking where users are identified based on matching interests. Advertisers can then use the "cohorts" for ad tracking without reading the browser history of specific users.

Google, which has most of its revenue from tracking and controlled advertising, describes FLoC as a strengthening of privacy. This is understandable as long as their revenue depends on not too frayed trust on the part of users.

Individuals are easily narrowed down
The "cohorts" will probably not include more than a few thousand users and will simply be able to be narrowed down to meeting specific users, according to Rescorla.

For example, tracking companies can use "fingerprints" from the browser to narrow down the list of users in a cohort to just a few. To achieve this, "a relatively small amount of information" is needed in combination with the information already available about the "cohort".

Combinations of IDs
Neither FLoC identifiers nor user interests are constant quantities. Combinations of FLoC IDs within a given time frame will also be a way to sort out individual users.

FLoC identifiers also "leak" more information than cookies. Unlike website-specific cookies, FLoC IDs are the same across websites, they become "a shared key" available to trackers.

Suppress “sensitive” topics
Google has proposed several measures to reduce privacy issues, including suppressing cohorts linked to "sensitive" topics.

 

Selv om disse begrensningene virker nyttige, er det marginale forbedringer, de tar ikke for seg de grunnleggende problemene.

 

Good intentions
Rescorla concludes that the intentions behind FLoC are good, but the solution at the current stage of development is not good enough.

Since Google announced its FLoC proposal, a number of companies - including Brave, Vivaldi and Opera - have expressed skepticism about the idea. DuckDuckGo's latest update blocks FLoC. On the website Am I FLoCed you can check if you belong to the herd.

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