When I learned Google was rolling out Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), their latest advertising experiment, to Google Chrome users, I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to participate in.
And it wasn’t something I wanted my website visitors to unknowingly participate in.
My main reason: privacy for me and website visitors.
What bothered me about the rollout: Google made the decision to release their FLoC technology enabled by default in the Chrome browser.
Which is why I was glad to discover Roy Tanck’s new Disable FLoC plugin.
What happened to user choice?
Read on to learn what Federated Learning of Cohorts is about, why you should be concerned, and how you can use the Disable FLoC plugin to turn it off on your WordPress site.
What is Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)?
Created as a replacement for tracking cookies (which are being phased out), Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC):
- Uses your browser to do profiling
- Collects your recent browser activity and gives it a behavioral label for a group or “cohort”
- Shares that cohort identification with websites and advertisers
While some people will argue that the cohort identification is less obtrusive than current tracking, the cohort ID follows users from site to site.
A free plugin, Disable FLoC does one thing: adds an HTTP header to your WordPress site that disables Google’s FLoC.
The header added to your site is:
Permissions-Policy: interest cohort=()
Released earlier this month, the plugin has no configuration settings and has a 5 star rating in the WordPress plugin repository.
When I installed it last week on my site, there were less than 50 installations. When I checked it today, there were over 800 installations.
It’s straightforward to use and test to make sure it’s working.
How the Plugin Works
Once you’ve installed Disable FLoC, it excludes your website from being included in Google’s FLoC.
Which means people using the Chrome browser who visit your website won’t be identified by FLoC.
You can confirm the plugin is working by visiting the Chrome browser Dev Tools and checking the Network tab.
I found it easier to use the free online FLoC header checker.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the current cookie tracking method or FLoC.
My opinion: let the user decide.
At least with the current cookie tracking system, users can decide whether they want to share info with each site by choosing whether they accept or decline cookies.
With FLoC, the decision has already been made: the setting is turned on by default.
You can learn more details of how FLoC works in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea.
Disable FLoC is a plugin with a single purpose: to disable Google’s FLoC. It works.
There is no configuration. You install the plugin, test to make sure it’s disabled FLoC, and you’re good to go.
Yes, you could accomplish the same thing without a plugin, by adding lines of code to your function.php file.
But for many WordPress users, they’re not comfortable writing code.
Disable FLoC accomplishes the same thing, without worrying about having to write code.
Have you used the Disable FLoC plugin? If yes, share your experience and tell me what you like best about the plugin in the comments.