Google developed a new tracking method called FLoC, integrated it into Chrome, and automatically enabled millions of users. so how to block Google’s FLoC tracking?
FLoC is harmful to your privacy because it categorizes you based on your browsing history, and any website can use that group FLoC ID to target and fingerprint you. You can use the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension to block FLoC tracking (pending Chrome Web Store approval of our update). Which is an improvement to tracker blocking and directly in line with the extension’s single purpose of protecting your privacy holistically as you use Chrome.
DuckDuckGo Search (via our website duckduckgo.com) is now set to opt-out of FLoC, regardless of whether you use our extension or app.
What is FLoC?
If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might be surprised to learn that you could have been entered automatically into Google’s new tracking method called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). It groups you based on your interests and demographics derived from your browsing history to enable creepy advertising and another content targeting without third-party cookies. After a short trial period, Google decided not to make this new tracking method a user choice and instead started automatically including millions in the scheme. If you’re reading this in Chrome while logged in to a Google account, yes, that likely means you too, and if not now, then eventually.
How to block Google FLoC tracking?
The criteria for opting into FLoC are somewhat obscure and contradictory, but there are three ways to avoid FLoC:
(1) Avoid using Google Chrome!
FLoC is currently only available in Google Chrome, and no other browser vendor has expressed an intention or even an interest in implementing it. There are several free browsers available for download. We recommend using duckduckgo mobile browser on iOS or Android, which provides best-in-class privacy protection by default when searching and browsing.
(2) Download and install the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension.
As a result of Google’s automatic activation of FLoC, we’ve enhanced the tracker blocking in our Chrome extension to block FLoC interactions on websites. This is directly in line with our extension’s single goal of protecting your privacy holistically as you use your browser. It’s privacy boiled down to its most basic form. (If you use a browser other than Chrome, you can get our extension here.) As of this writing, we’re waiting for Google to approve our updated Chrome extension, which will soon be available in the Chrome Web Store. The FLoC blocking feature is included in DuckDuckGo extension versions 2021.4.8 and newer, which should auto-update, but you can also check the version you have installed from the extensions list within Chrome.
(3) Change your Chrome and Google settings,
which we strongly advise you to do if you continue to use Chrome. It appears (but Google isn’t apparent on this, so we’re not sure) that if you do any of the following, Google will exclude you from FLoC, at least for the time being. And, because there are still many unknowns and things are changing quickly, these steps’ efficacy may change in the future.
- Continue to log out of your Google account;
- Don’t sync your history with Chrome or create a sync pass;
- Disable “Web & App Activity” or “Include Chrome history and activity from sites, apps, and devices that use Google services” in Google Activity Controls.
- Disable “Ad Personalization” or “Also use your activity & information from Google services to personalize ads on websites and apps that partner with Google to show ads” in Google Ad Settings.
Even if you change these settings, we recommend installing the DuckDuckGo Chrome extension for comprehensive privacy protection when using Chrome, including private search, tracker blocking, Smarter Encryption, and Global Privacy Control. You can get our extension for non-Chrome desktop browsers here.