DuckDuckGo has developed a feature its Chrome extension to block Google’s tracking and ad-targeting methods and interactions on websites called Topics and FLEDGE (First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment).
Google plans to automatically enter Chrome users into its new tracking and ad-targeting methods.
Privacy should be the default, according to DuckDuckGo.
The targeting method, regardless of how it's done, enables manipulation such as “exploiting personal vulnerabilities,” discrimination such as people not seeing job opportunities based on personal profiles, and filter bubbles that create echo chambers that can divide people, DuckDuckGo writes in a blog post.
Google says users will have an option to delete “Topics” they do not want to share.
Topics replaced Google FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts), the previous tracking method in Chrome.
While Topics differs from FLoC, it still shares information about a person’s online behavior with websites and tracking companies without consent. It uses the Chrome browsing history to automatically collect information about interests to create Topic audience segments.
FLEDGE replaces cookie-based ad retargeting, the ads that follow consumers through the Web when not blocked.
It allows the Chrome browser to target ads based on browsing history. The advertiser can tell the Chrome browser to put add the information into an interest group. Then, when the browser visits another website that displays ads, the Chrome browser will run an ad auction based on the interest groups and target specific ads.
DuckDuckGo’s new extension feature works with its others that already provide private search, tracker blocking, smarter encryption, and global privacy controls, according to the company, which says the blocking feature should update automatically for those who have the extension installed.
Depending on the number of people DuckDuckGo can convince to use its extension, the company could put a roadblock on targeting for agencies and brands.
DuckDuckGo has promoted several changes, such as disabling the Privacy Sandbox trial in the Chrome settings, sign out of Chrome, turn off Chrome sign-in, don’t sync browsing history with Chrome, disable Web & App Activity in Google Activity Controls, and disable Ad Personalization in Google Ad Settings.
“Topics can be combined with IP address or other fingerprinting attributes (also automatically available) so it’s easier for you to be tracked individually by third-party trackers,” DuckDuckGo wrote. “Google promises to address this at some point in the future through a so-called ‘privacy budget,’ but experts have already called the approach into question.”