Federated Learning of Cohorts (FloC): Microsoft and Mozilla comment on Google's new technology

The front against Google's new tracking technology FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is getting bigger and bigger. The smaller Chromium browsers Brave and Vivaldi have already established facts and will not ship the technology in their applications. In addition, the developers behind the search engine DuckDuckGo have updated their browser extension accordingly and Automattic, the company behind WordPress, sees FLoC as a security risk and wants to take appropriate measures.

The colleagues from Bleepingcomputer were now able to obtain corresponding reactions from Microsoft and Mozilla, but they are not yet clearly positioning themselves on this matter. Microsoft reacted with a very general statement and with PARAKEET put its own proposal in the foreground as an alternative, but for the moment FLoC is deactivated in Microsoft Edge and in further discussions, it became clear behind the scenes that the Redmond company is currently waiting and the next Want to follow developments around Google's technology before making a decision.

"We believe in a future where the web can provide people with privacy, transparency and control while also supporting responsible business models to create a vibrant, open and diverse ecosystem. Like Google, we support solutions that give users clear consent, and do not bypass consumer choice. That's also why we do not support solutions that leverage non-consented user identity signals, such as fingerprinting. The industry is on a journey and there will be browser-based proposals that do not need individual user ids and ID-based proposals that are based on consent and first party relationships. We will continue to explore these approaches with the community. Recently, for example, we were pleased to introduce one possible approach, as described in our  PARAKEET proposal. This proposal is not the final iteration but is an evolving document. "

Mozilla currently has no plans to implement one of the existing proposals in Firefox and is currently evaluating the various models internally. A decision has not yet been made and will also depend on how the further test of FLoC (and PARAKEET) goes and how the acceptance of the users for the individual technologies will be.

"We are currently evaluating many of the privacy preserving advertising proposals, including those put forward by Google, but have no current plans to implement any of them at this time.

We don't buy into the assumption that the industry needs billions of data points about people, that are collected and shared without their understanding, to serve relevant advertising. That is why we've implemented Enhanced Tracking Protection by default to block more than ten billion trackers a day, and continue to innovate on new ways to protect people who use Firefox.

Advertising and privacy can co-exist. And the advertising industry can operate differently than it has in past years. We look forward to playing a role in finding solutions that build a better web."

Apple has not yet commented publicly on the individual proposals, but John Wilander, who works on Tracking Protection in the Safari team, indicated last week that the Cupertino company would also like to wait and see how things develop.

We have not said we will implement and we have our tracking prevention policy. That's it for the time being. Serious standards proposals deserve thinking and I appreciate Brave sharing theirs.

- John Wilander (@johnwilander) April 12, 2021

An official statement from Opera is currently pending, but in the end, a lot will depend on how successful the Google test will be and whether the company from Mountain View can also convince Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple as other heavyweights of their plan. In addition to other companies such as DuckDuckGo and Automattic, organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have also expressed their negative opinion and FLoC itself is now part of an antitrust process that is running against Google in the USA. Either way, it will remain exciting.

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