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Vivaldi is the latest browser to block FLoC

Vivaldi No FLOC Campaign
(Image credit: Vivaldi)
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The open source and Chromium-based browser Vivaldi (opens in new tab) has removed Google's FLoC (opens in new tab) from its software as it believes the implementation of the new advertising technology is a “dangerous step that harms user privacy”.

The search giant's Federate Learning of Cohorts or FLoC for short is designed to replace third-party cookies (opens in new tab) for ad tracking through a new API which was recently added to Google Chrome (opens in new tab).

Vivaldi isn't the first company to block FLoC as the anti-tracking browser Brave (opens in new tab) and the privacy-centric search engine DuckDuckGo (opens in new tab) took similar steps immediately after its release.

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In a new blog post (opens in new tab), co-founder and CEO of Vivaldi, Jon von Tetzchner explained that FLoC doesn't align with the company's principles when it comes to privacy, saying:

“At Vivaldi, we stand up for the privacy rights of our users. We do not approve tracking and profiling, in any disguise. We certainly would not allow our products to build up local tracking profiles. To us, the word “privacy” means actual privacy. We do not twist it into being the opposite. We do not even observe how you use our products. Our privacy policy is simple and clear; we do not want to track you.”

FLoC off!

Although Vivaldi is based on Chromium, the browser only relies on the Chromium engine to render pages correctly unlike Microsoft Edge (opens in new tab) and other Chromium-based browsers.

According to Tetzchner, the FLoC experiment does not work in the company's browser because it relies on some hidden settings that are not enabled in Vivaldi. The FLoC API calls on Google's servers to check to see whether it can function since the search giant has only enabled it in parts of the world that are not covered by GDPR (opens in new tab). As Vivaldi has modified the Chromium engine to make it safer for its users, the company does not allow its browser to make these sorts of calls to Google.

Unlike cookie-based ad targeting (opens in new tab) which requires third-party cookies to remain on a user's system, FLoC builds a profile for each user built with data based on their browsing habits to determine their preferences. With FLoC enabled, advertisers will be able to see much more information regarding each user as this data is tied to their FLoC ID which follows them around the web.

We'll have to wait and see whether the outrage from Vivaldi, Brave and DuckDuckGo is enough to warrant Google making big changes to how FLoC operates or if the search giant will decide to entirely scrap its replacement for third-party cookies.

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Anthony Spadafora
Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.