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Google is keeping an eye on where you go on the internet.
Back in 2020 Google announced the beginning of the end of third-party cookies that track you as you click around the Chrome web browser. Now it’s starting to roll out its cookies replacement, a tracking mechanism called a “Federated Learning of Cohorts,” or FLoC.
Cookies remember information about your logins or what you’ve looked at on a shopping website. Advertisers use this information to better understand your online and even offline behavior, and to then feed you specific, targeted ads that follow you around the internet. Google has said it wants to make internet browsing feel less invasive, but it also wants to keep online advertising money coming in.
This has led to a shift away from cookies and toward a FLoC system in which users with similar interests are grouped together based on browsing history. An ID assigned to your group or “cohort” instead follows you around the internet and to advertisers, which Google called in a Jan. 2021 blog post “interest-based advertising.”
Google considers this a “privacy-first alternative” to cookies since your specific browser history doesn’t get passed around to advertisers, only your cohort ID does. Thousands of users could be part of a cohort.
A Google whitepaper about FLoCs sums up the privacy benefits (according to Google) as letting users “hide in the crowd.” Based on your browsing history you could be assigned to a group comprised of dog owners who all visited certain websites instead of being picked out as an individual dog owner who went to a pet food website, for example.
With Chrome’s FLoC tracking you’d be put into a group that likes or owns dogs versus a group of other people who also went to the same websites but who own or like cats. Each user can be part of multiple ID groups based on their various interests. And because many Chrome users are signed into their Google accounts, that identity follows them (and is further shaped) across different devices.
Online privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation takes issue with this new form of online surveillance that retraces your online history each week to more accurately group you and to compile more identifying information (this is known as fingerprinting). The EFF is also concerned that trials for the new tracking method have started without user consent or knowledge, and with no clear way to opt out.
We reached out to Google about any updates to its FLoC rollout for Chrome users, but have yet to hear back.
In response to the new type of tracking, the EFF set up a website to check if your Chrome browser is forming a cohort ID and sharing it with advertisers. The feature isn’t fully rolled out, but testing is ongoing.
Since it’s just a small group of users part of the initial trial, chances are you aren’t part of the FLoC testing yet. But the EFF reminds you to keep checking back since each week you could’ve been added as testing expands. Google isn’t giving a heads up if you’re grouped into the new ad-tech strategy.
ที่มา : Mashable