Google plans to end support for third-party tracking cookies in the Chrome browser, which is ostensibly a response to users’ growing demands for privacy. But Google is first and foremost a company that makes its money by advertising… and these days that’s primarily targeted advertising. So the company plans to keep doing that.

Instead of cookies that track individual users to build profiles, the company has introduced a system it calls FLoC, or Federated Learning of Cohorts. The basic idea is that instead of building a profile of individual users, Google will create groups of users with similar interests so ads can be targeted at folks who fall into those groups.

Theoretically it’s closer to being anonymous. In practice, that all depends on how big the groups are and how specific the interests are. Google recently began testing FLoC in the wild, and it’s already facing some serious backlash.

Privacy advocates generally haven’t been fans of replacing one form of tracking with another. And now makers of a growing number of web browsers that are based on Google’s Chromium are saying they’re going to opt out of FLoC. That includes the Brave browser, which makes sense, since it’s already a privacy-focused browser, but also the Vivaldi web browser. Meanwhile privacy-first search engine DuckDuckGo has released a browser extension that will let you block FLoC even if you’re using the Chrome web browser.

Google FLoC

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