The Internet Privacy Society, DuckDuckGo, speaks out again against Google and its plans to replace third-party cookies in the Chrome browser through updated tracking and ad targeting methods.
DuckDuckGo said in a recent blog post that despite Google’s insistence on transitioning to using Google Topics and FLEDGE instead of third-party cookies to give you more detailed control over your personal data, the new methods could be just as invasive as the tech company rolls out its Privacy Sandbox update to Chrome.
Google Topics collects information about users’ interests directly from their browsing history in Chrome. At the same time, FLEDGE allows Chrome to target ads to users based on their browsing history, supposedly in a privacy-friendly and on-device auction.
“These new methods enable creepy ads and other content targeting without third-party cookies,” DuckDuckGo said in its blog post. “While Google positions this as more privacy-friendly, the simple fact is that tracking, targeting and profiling is still tracking, targeting and profiling, whatever you want to call it.“. Google still seems to have a very broad definition of Privacy Sandbox, stating that some solutions “limit the sharing of user data with third parties and work without cross-app identifiers“.
Privacy and security were big topics at Google’s recent I/O Developer Conference, where the company showcased My Ad Center, a way to manually customize personal information that might be targeted by ads, as well as ad topics that will be presented to you. The company also introduced new protections for Google Accounts and Google Search.
Google Topics and FLEDGE raise privacy concerns
However, DuckDuckGo argues that, especially when the Privacy Sandbox feature is enabled, Google Topics and FLEDGE raise particular privacy issues that are discriminatory, exploitative, and potentially embarrassing to Chrome users. For example, DuckDuckGo indicates that users do not see certain job offers because of the information contained in their personal profile or that users are trapped in filter bubbles, all because of the advertising content that is destined.
It should be noted that DuckDuckGo is a direct competitor to Google, which offers both its own search engine and its own web browser. DuckDuckGo encourages users to consider their options to either opt out of using Google Topics and FLEDGE or use an alternate browser. The DuckDuckGo browser is available on iOS and Android and now also on Mac. Of course, you can also consider using other web browsers such as Brave, Vivaldi, Microsoft Edge, or Safari, all of which offer their own privacy and security features.