Google will not renew Chrome’s FLoC test and not disclose feedback

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Google will end the Federated Learning of Cohorts or FLoC trial on July 14 and has no plans to extend it. The company wants to process the feedback on the initiative before starting a new test. That feedback will not be made publicly available.

It was already known that the Federated Learning of Cohorts test would end on July 14, but given the outcry about the technology, the question was whether Google would extend it to gain more insights. That is not the case, Google developer Josh Karlin clarifies in a question about this.

The test started in March and covered Chrome 89 through 91, so it has been disabled in version 92. “We have decided not to renew the Origin Trial. Instead, we are working hard to improve FLoC to handle the feedback that we have received from the community before proceeding with testing the ecosystem,” Karlin reports.

At a Web Commerce Interest Group meeting this week on a related part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox, Google employee Michael Kleber made it clear that non-public FLoC feedback is not shared with the outside world. According to Kleber, the core of the feedback will be derived from a next version of FLoC, The Register noted from the report of the meeting. FLoC should become a widely supported part of the post-third-party cookie world, Google reported earlier this year.

There is already a lot of public feedback on the initiative, which largely consists of criticism. FLoC is part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox; a collection of techniques that Google proposes and which, according to the company, should better guarantee privacy. The API for FLoC should replace tracking cookies while still giving advertisers some opportunity to target targeted advertising, based on groups. Such a group or cohort is based on the internet behavior of users.

The idea is that users can no longer be tracked individually, but only anonymously as part of a group. Critics such as Mozilla argue that fingerprinting is still possible and could even be made easier. In addition, critics argue that Google is forcing the technology, partly due to the power the company has on the advertising and browser market. Many organizations have therefore announced that they do not support FLoC, including browser builders and parties such as WordPress, Drupal and Symfony. Google recently postponed its plan to phase out tracking cookies from the end of 2021 to 2023.

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