Wordpress is considering the ability to block Google's FLoC tracking software as a security threat. In this way, Wordpress thus joins a list of companies that reject the new form of tracking of the Alphabet giant.
It was in early 2020 when Google announced that they were going to end third-party cookies in Chrome marking a before and after in the use of these. At Genbeta we spoke with Chetna Bindra, product manager for user trust, privacy and transparency at Google, about an API they were working on as part of the Privacy Sandbox experiments: Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
The board explained that FLoC is an API that focuses on cohorts or groups of users who have similar browsing habits. The general principle of this API is that individual users cannot be distinguished within a group, since only the identifier of the cohort and not the individual is revealed.
FLoC controversy in Wordpress
Why is Wordpress debating whether to block FLoC as a security threat? As Search Engine Journal publishes, the ability to track User interests through the use of third-party cookies is lucrative for Google, which has one of its great economic pillars in internet advertising, and which depends on cookies on websites to be able to carry out this business.
Ads targeting user interests become more valuable to both advertisers and Google, as these types of ads can sell for a higher price. Remember that many browsers block automatically third-party cookies. And Google responded to this slow death of cookies with its FLoC.
WordPress has been debating this proposal to block FLoC and although there are no decisions made, the majority of those who participated in this discussion expressed their support for the blockade. Discussions will continue on the official WordPress Slack channel. While a decision arrives, for now the developers of the platform yes they have already published two plugins that block FLoC in WordPress.
In the debate, opponents of this Google tracking consider that is a "dangerous step that harms user privacy"For some Wordpress users, a concern is that creators who are unaware of this new technology may decide to use it without fully understanding how it works and propose that FLoC be blocked by default with the option that each administrator can decide if they want to activate it.
At the same time, and as an argument for those who say that FLoC should be allowed is that This exclusion may affect the advertising revenue of some users who use the Google AdSense program.. Wordpress is an open platform that gives a lot of space to debate on matters of great importance like these.
Wordpress is not the only one that is not convinced with the FLoC methods
The debate that Wordpress is conducting joins that of other Internet companies that do not approve of new tracking methods developed by the Mountain View giant.
Last week two browser firms raised their voices about it. Sgún Brave and DuckDuckGo this tool doesn't even meet its goal of safeguarding privacy. In the words of Peter Snyder and Brendan Eich of Brave,
"FLoC materially damages user privacy under the guise of being privacy-friendly. FLoC makes your browsing history known to websites, which makes it easier for sites to track you across the web, and promotes a false notion of what privacy is and why privacy is important. "
For this reason, the developers of Brave (a browser focused specifically on privacy) have decided to block FLoC in the trial versions of their application on desktop and Android. For its part, the search engine DuckDuckGo announced an extension for browsers with which, from now on, they will also try to block FLoC.
The arguments of its CEO and founder, Gabriel Weinberg, are very similar to those put forward by Brave: "FLoC is simply not good for privacy." According to Weinberg, it is nonsense to pretend that "a behavior monitoring mechanism imposed without consent (that is, FLoC) you can respect people's privacy at the same time".
Obviously, faced with this dispute, Google maintains a totally opposite discourse. Alphabet's signature insists that FLoC respects privacy more than traditional cookie tracking. From Google they explain that FLoC is one of the elements of their Privacy Sandbox strategy, with which they intend to achieve a 'balance' between the privacy needs of users and the industry's advertising. According to Marshall Vale, the product manager for said strategy,
"We concluded that blocking third-party cookies directly without viable alternatives for the ecosystem was irresponsible, and even detrimental, to the free and open web that we all enjoy."
Interestingly, one of the people involved in the design and implementation of Privacy Shield is the director of Privacy and Confidence of Google Advertising, David Temkin, who until January 2020 he served as product manager for Brave.
The general principle of this API is that individual users cannot be distinguished within a group, since only the identifier of the cohort and not the individual is revealed. Since all users in the group have similar interests, then identification models such as personalized advertising, they would be as good as the ones that track individuals.
Of course, the question is whether or not we can fully believe Google when it comes to privacy.