Why You Should Care About Your Online Privacy

Updated: That didn’t take long. Brave web browser is now blocking FLOC. I highly recommend using Brave. You can download Brave browser here.

I also recommend reading their take Why Brave Disables FLOC. And here is the cliffnote if you are still unmoved to act.

For example, you may have an existing account with Walgreens, possibly to fill prescriptions. Walgreens necessarily knows who you are. FLoC tells Walgreens things that Walgreens has no business knowing about you (not a pseudonymous you or a cohort including you, but you as identified by your Walgreens login), based on your browsing behavior.

Chrome telling Walgreens (and Twitter, and GitHub, and Facebook, and any other site you have an account with) is unquestionably harming your privacy, by telling sites information about you that they otherwise wouldn’t have, information you didn’t decide to share with those sites, and information that is likely unrelated to why you chose to visit those sites where you do log in.

Worse yet, FLoC also exposes this information to every third-party on these sites. So, to build on the above example, FLoC doesn’t tell only Walgreens your interests and behaviors, but it tells, at time of writing, each of the following ad-tech companies, your interests too:

  • Monetate
  • Adobe
  • Bing
  • Branch.io
  • InMomentum
  • Facebook

All of these are ad-tech companies who track, record and profile you across the web.

Clearly most people who will find this post are fellow Internet Marketing professionals, so this read is preaching to the choir – you can probably skip it unless you don’t know about Google’s FLoC. Google’s FLoC is a next-gen Internet Marketing (tracking) methodology. Most are calling it a “replacement” for third-party cookies, of which you can read an excellent post about this at EFF.org Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea.

On the surface you might say “Great. Now they won’t track me individually, I’ll just be part of a much larger group.” called Cohorts. ( Sounds like a survival technique from the Serengeti – is hiding in a crowd of targets your best survival choice? )

For the rest of you John Q Publics that say, “I don’t worry about privacy. I got nothing to hide.” (one of my best friends just said that to me) I have news for you.

You are wrong. You will not be hiding and you do have something to protect – your well being.

Lets say you voted for Trump. You never thought that once the opposition was in power, they would come looking for you, or Antifa or whoever the nastiest, most vindictive group might be. I’m not taking political sides. I don’t have to. History is full of French Revolutions and Cultural Revolutions, or more recent examples. No one I know can predict the future. I am not the only one who sees a problem in the future regarding individual privacy and how anyone could become a victim because of their “profile” under Googel’s FLoC.

Why is FLoC dangerous? Because “FLoC will use an unsupervised algorithm to create its clusters (cohort groupings). That means that nobody will have direct control over how people are grouped together.” Your computer will be spying on and categorizing you. That profile will be far more granular and comprehensive than what can be collected under the current system of third-party cookies.

Sure Google and Apple build profiles of you now and says they don’t store that data, but we have more than enough examples to prove that they speak with a forked-tongue. Still, those profiles, if they are saved somewhere, are incomplete by comparison to FLoC. Lets say you don’t use Google as your default search engine and you don’t use Android or IOS, that’s some missing data. But if the profile is running in your browser on your device, well now that is capable of collecting everything about you.

But its worse, anyone who wants to find out more about you, can simply get that from your browser when you visit any website. Anyone!

So you say you have nothing to hide. You are a proud law abiding citizen. But you just happen to visit a website that is related to a group that is suddenly related to an event that is deemed dangerous by someone. And the only thing they want to know is where you are right now. With FLoC, any website can easily help them locate you.

My business is not about your individual privacy and it won’t pay the bills. I am paid by businesses looking to connect with the right people on the Internet that will buy their products or services. That’s all good. We want everyone to buy our products. We are not interrogating someone’s browser to find if they “Wrongthink”.

Needless to say, the future of Internet Marketing is going to be shaped by systems like FLoC. Since “to search” is an explicit signal of “intent”, the future will likely be something like what Doc Searls has conceptualized in The Intention Economy. Ironically, you can even read about it on Google Books. (by clicking, it will help build your profile)