Privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo has a anti-FLoC extension for Chrome browser: Will Google approve a plugin that obstructs its own product?

DuckDuckGo Google Chrome FLoC
Will Google approve a Chrome extension that blocks FLoC? Pic credit: Skylar Vision/Pixabay

DuckDuckGo, a search engine that promotes privacy and anonymity, has updated its plugin for Google Chrome. The extension attempts to obstruct Google’s latest initiative that promises privacy and targeted advertising.

Privacy champion DuckDuckGo announced an update to its browser plugin. The update specifically counters Google’s new tracking method called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

DuckDuckGo browser extension obstructs FloC on Google Chrome:

DuckDuckGo, the privacy search engine, has updated its DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension. The update to the add-on comes after Google began a FLoC trial.

It is concerning to note that Google has brought in about 0.5 percent of Chrome browser users without their explicit consent. Simply put, several hundred thousand Google Chrome browser users are reportedly unaware they are a part of the FLoC trial.

Commenting on FLoC and the updated Chrome add-on, DuckDuckGo and founder Gabriel Weinberg said:

“If you’re a Google Chrome user, you might be surprised to learn that you could have been entered automatically into Google’s new tracking method called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). It groups you based on your interests and demographics, derived from your browsing history, to enable creepy advertising and another content targeting without third-party cookies.

“After a short trial period, Google decided not to make this new tracking method a user choice and instead started automatically including millions in the scheme.”

“In response to Google automatically turning on FLoC, we’ve enhanced the tracker blocking in our Chrome extension to also block FLoC interactions on websites. This is directly in line with the single purpose of our extension of protecting your privacy holistically as you use your browser. It’s privacy, simplified.”

Will Google approve the new FLoC-blocking browser extension for Chrome?

DuckDuckGo’s has included the new FLoC blocking feature with version 2021.4.8 of the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension. Interestingly, Google holds the virtual keys to the extension marketplace for the Chrome browser.

Simply put, Google gets to decide if it wants an extension on the add-on marketplace. Needless to add, it would certainly be a dilemma for Google to approve an extension that blocks the company’s products.

DuckDuckGo is confident that Google could grant the permission and allow its updated extension to be listed on the Chrome extension marketplace.

Several privacy-conscious users have installed the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extension. Such users should receive the updated version automatically. New users can head over to the extension’s location on the Chrome Web Store.

Google Chrome commands about two-third of the browser market share. Hence, the company retiring the use of Cookies in favor of its own in-house developed solution is concerning to third-party advertisers.

The search giant is essentially funneling individual Advertising IDs into “Cohorts”. The company will be tagging thousands with similar interests with a “Cohort ID”.

Advertisers can then show ads to the relevant cohorts. Google assures the system is supposed to boost users’ privacy. However, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has outlined how FLoC primarily benefits Google and may leave other advertisers disadvantaged.

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