Google is running a Chrome “origin trial” to test out an experimental new tracking feature called Federated Learning of Cohorts (aka “FLoC”). According to Google, the trial currently affects 0.5% of users in selected regions, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, and the United States. This page will try to detect whether you’ve been made a guinea pig in Google’s ad-tech experiment.
What is FLoC?
Third-party cookies are the technology that powers much of the surveillance-advertising business today. But cookies are on their way out, and Google is trying to design a way for advertisers to keep targeting users based on their web browsing once cookies are gone. It’s come up with FLoC.
FLoC runs in your browser. It uses your browsing history from the past week to assign you to a group with other “similar” people around the world. Each group receives a label, called a FLoC ID, which is supposed to capture meaningful information about your habits and interests. FLoC then displays this label to everyone you interact with on the web. This makes it easier to identify you with browser fingerprinting, and it gives trackers a head start on profiling you. You can read EFF’s analysis and criticisms of FLoC here.
The Chrome origin trial for FLoC has been deployed to millions of random Chrome users without warning, much less consent. While FLoC is eventually intended to replace tracking cookies, during the trial, it will give trackers access to even more information about subjects. The origin trial is likely to continue into July 2021, and may eventually affect as many as 5% of Chrome users worldwide. See our blog post about the trial for more information.