Connect with us


WordPress Proposes Blocking Google’s FLoC



WordPress Proposes Blocking Google’s FLoC

WordPress discussed a proposal to block Google’s new user tracking scheme called FLoC. While most expressed support others raised valid concerns. No decision has been made to block FLoC. Discussions will continue in the official WordPress Slack channel.

Google FLoC

Being able to track what people are interested in by using third party cookies is lucrative for Google. Ads targeted by user interest are said to convert at a higher rate are are thus more valuable to both advertisers and Google because these kinds of ads can be sold at a premium.

But third party cookies are going away because many browsers are already blocking them automatically.

Google responded to the slow death of third party cookie tracking by rolling out a new way to track users called, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).


Continue Reading Below

FLoC is an anonymous way to assign an interest to people based on their browsing patterns. Those browsing patterns are used to categorize users into user interest buckets.

Competitors and Privacy Groups React with Alarm

That has inspired alarming articles from sites like the Electronic Frontier Foundation which decried it as “terrible idea.”

Competitors to Google and it’s Chrome browser (Brave, DuckDuckGo, and Vivaldi) have also taken action to block FLoC and render it unable to track users.

They have called FLoC “nasty” and claim that it enables “discrimination” and is a “dangerous step that harms user privacy.”

Developers have also already published two plugins that block FLoC from WordPress.

Discussions at WordPress to Block FLoC

As mentioned earlier, no firm decision has been made to block FLoC. The official WordPress core developers are discussing a proposal to block FLoC. So it’s not a done deal.

Some in the developer community questioned the suggestion of adding FLoC blocking to previous older versions of WordPress that publishers are still using, citing that it might undermine trust.


Continue Reading Below

“Love the feature idea, it will need work. Practically it won’t be easy to back port, it has potential to damage the trust in automatic updates.”

Someone else agreed that FLoC should be treated as a security update but that they had concerns about making the opt-out something noticeable and with a clear explanation of what WordPress is doing.

This is an important point because some users may want to opt back in if opting out impacts their ad revenue earnings through the Google AdSense program.

They commented

“It makes sense to treat it as a security, matter. And, in principle, I agree with @roytanck that it should add the opt-out header by default, but seeing there is (kinda) a tradition in WordPress to let the user decide and if it is not opt-out by default, WP should highlight this issue and present it in a very clear noticeable… notice when the update is released and a very clear help message in the settings pages in the future versions.”

However others questioned the reasoning behind calling this a security update.

“While I agree with the overall sentiment here, I think it is a mistake to treat this as a security update and risks abusing user trust in automatic updates. To call it a security update appears to me to be intentionally misusing the term in order to roll it out via automatic updates.

The implicit contract with users for security autoupdates is that they are used in order to protect the user from their site …being compromised imminently. This isn’t the case with FLoC, and may in some cases damage the site’s behaviour.”

That commenter followed up by labeling the action against FLoC a political statement and questioned calling it a security update:

“I’m on board for the political statement of countering Chrome’s encroachment on privacy, as well as the alignment of this with WP’s values generally, but making this change as a “security” update is a step too far.”


Continue Reading Below

That person wasn’t alone in questioning calling it a security threat.

Someone else asked

“Can someone even explain, providing concrete facts not just assumptions, as to how having a browser be part of a group of hundreds of thousands of similar other browsers for a week is a security threat?”

Another commenter similarly questioned calling this a security threat:

“If WordPress treats FLoC as a security concern, how would it justify letting users opt in? Security fixes are unilateral by definition, users don’t get to opt back in to the threat that was eliminated.”

Someone else questioned blocking FLoC while historically turning a blind eye to the arguably more invasive third party cookies. 

“Where do we draw the line at what WordPress should be blocking in core for privacy?

Should WordPress block ALL third party tracking cookies like Facebook too?”

It was also suggested later on that this may be an issue for the individual to deal with, not for WordPress, similar to how WordPress is neutral about third party tracking cookies.


Continue Reading Below

They commented:

“This sounds like an individual privacy concern, and not something that WordPress – as a neutral publishing platform that can be used to share whatever where ever you want, should take a stance on.

WordPress doesn’t block other forms of browser tracking, why should this be any different? WordPress allows you to use an unscrupulous ad provider on your site, but importantly it doesn’t prevent you from using it either.”

WordPress Proposal on FLoC

Changes to WordPress are discussed within the developer community, sometimes beginning with a proposal. Proposals are not always carried out.

It may be misinformation and clickbait to claim that WordPress has made a firm decision to block FLoC. There are many technical issues to be worked out such as whether or not this is a security issue, whether it should be backported to earlier versions of WordPress (as a “security fix”) as well as deciding whether it’s even WordPress’ place to take a stand against FLoC seeing how WordPress was neutral about third party tracking.


Continue Reading Below

Nevertheless, blocking FLoC appears to have overwhelming support both inside the core developer group and anecdotally outside it in the general WordPress developer community.


WordPress Proposal Discussion
Proposal: Treat FLoC as a security concern

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Google’s FLoC Is a Terrible Idea

Brave Browser Blocks FLoC

DuckDuckGo Publishes a Browser Extension to Block FLoC

Vivaldi Browser Rejects FLoC


Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say



Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Source link

Continue Reading


5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy



Student writing on computer

With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

Source link

Continue Reading


Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon



Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

Source link

Continue Reading