WordPress has announced that it will treat FLoC, Google’s latest tracking technology, as a security risk and has decided to block it by default on its websites.
Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) is a new ad tracking tool from Google that works on a web browser. Depending on the users’ browsing activities, FLoC will put users into behavioral or interest buckets anonymously.
Google started testing FLoC in Google Chrome this month. Privacy experts agreed that the FLoC implementation simply substitutes one privacy vulnerability with another.
WordPress stated that FLoC can be a potential threat to security, so it will begin blocking it in upcoming releases of its new versions.
WordPress said, “WordPress powers approximately 41% of the web – and this community can help combat racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, and discrimination against those with mental illness with four lines of code.”
The four lines of code in WordPress would block FLoC. The platform will send an HTTP request header to the browser informing it that FLoC should be disabled for the website.
WordPress is concerned that users who are unaware of the latest feature will opt-in without thoroughly knowing what it means. As a result, it is in the best interests of these users for WordPress to remove the code immediately.
According to WordPress, “When balancing the stakeholder interests, the needs of website administrators who are not even aware that this is something that they need to mitigate – and the interests of the users and visitors to those sites, is simply more compelling.”
Google’s FLoC is supposed to be released soon. Thus, to “amplify the impact” on current versions, the blogging platform plans to back-port the code to previous versions of its site.
In a blog post, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explained, “FLoC is meant to be a new way to make your browser do the profiling that third-party trackers used to do themselves: in this case, boiling down your recent browsing activity into a behavioral label, and then sharing it with websites and advertisers.”
“The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process. It may also exacerbate many of the worst non-privacy problems with behavioral ads, including discrimination and predatory targeting,” EFF noted.
Other search engine developers and privacy browsers, including Vivaldi, DuckDuckGo, and Brave Browser, have since disabled FLoC from their applications or developed tools to block it.