3x26: Luminiferous Aether

Stuart Langridge, Jono Bacon, and Jeremy Garcia present Bad Voltage, in which flock is more than wallpaper, we say the word “cohort” about fifty billion times, and:

  • [00:02:15] FLoC, the "federated learning of cohorts", is a proposal from Google as part of their Privacy Sandbox initiative to replace third-party advertising cookies but still enable targeted advertising; instead advertisers will be told your "cohort ID", a calculated and anonymous summary of your last week's browsing history, and then decide whether and how to target you based on that alone. It's got some nuances: FLoC won't appear in GDPR-covered countries because what it does doesn't ask for consent, and those against targeted advertising entirely such as the EFF obviously don't like it, but... is this an improvement? Is it detrimental? Does it change anything at all? And is it remarkably ill-defined and slippery deliberately or because it's still being worked out?

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News music: Long Live Blind Joe by Robbero, used with attribution.

Thank you to Marius Quabeck and NerdZoom Media for being our audio producers!

The problem with FLoC is that it’s presented as a “Advertisers will either continue to be overly invasive, OR they can use this new standard which is less invasive”.

But that’s not the choices I see. If we have FLoC, advertisers will happily take that data, AND keep trying everything they can to be overly invasive. It’s not like there will suddenly cease to be a financial incentive to getting more data. Until we solve that problem, it’s better to reduce their foothold in the internet. Not support it.

Supporting advertisers is fine, don’t get me wrong. But they can have that as a service on top of the internet, not integrated into it.

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