Brave reveals why it is disabling Google's FLoC in the browser
When Google announced FLoC, an attempt to replace interest-based advertising that is based on cookies with something else, it was clear from the get-go that Google's plans would face heavy opposition. The Electronic Frontier Foundation published an article criticizing Google's take on the next generation of interest-based advertising, and DuckDuckGo updated its browser extension to block FLoC outright.
Several browser makers confirmed already that they won't support FLoC in their browsers, even if Chromium-based, because they believe it is a bad idea for user privacy.
Brave, maker of Brave browser, published a new post on the official company blog in which the company reveals why Brave browser won't support FLoC. The arguments are not new, but they may help understand why everyone, besides Google and other advertising companies, think that FLoC is bad for privacy.
Brave focuses on three aspects of FLoC that it believes make the Web head in the wrong direction:
- Sites are informed about browsing habits, even if users never visited them -- this is a very strong argument, considering that sites did not know anything about a user if that user never visited the site; this is especially true for users who disable third-party cookies in their browsers, and use other protective means. For the average user, FLoC will still reveal more about their interests than before.
- FLoC adds a strong identifier for fingerprinting -- FLoC's cohorts are made up of thousands of users, but that is a tiny group when it comes to fingerprinting. Coupled with other fingerprinting techniques, it could pave the way for improving fingerprinting accuracy.
- Google should not be the one determining what is sensitive and what is not -- Google wants to exclude sensitive categories, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, and others from being used by FLoC, to avoid creating cohorts made up of these groups. To exclude these, Google somehow needs to know about these, as it would not be able to make the determination otherwise.
Brave removed FLoC in the Nightly versions of the browser for Android and the desktop, and will remove FLoC code from all Brave releases this week.
Vivaldi revealed this week that it will disable FLoC in the Vivaldi browser as well.
All in all, it is a good time to consider moving away from Google Chrome, either to one of the available Chromium-based browsers, or to Firefox. Browser extensions like uBlock Origin do block FLoC as well.