Monday, 19 April 2021 08:32

WordPress to treat Google's new ad-tracking tech as a security issue Featured

WordPress to treat Google's new ad-tracking tech as a security issue Image by Kevin Phillips from Pixabay

The project that manages the WordPress content management system, which claims to power about 41% of the Web, will treat Google's new ad-tracking technology, Federated Learning of Cohorts, as a security issue and block it from working.

A post from a core developer, who goes by the moniker Carike, on Sunday cited the explanation provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation about FLoC, in which it described the technology as a "terrible idea".

Google's testing of FLoC was not announced publicly by the company and came to light after the EFF, an organisation that fights for digital rights, announced the launch of a trial on 30 March.

Privacy-focused engine DuckDuckGo and the companies behind the browsers Vivaldi and Brave have also opposed Google's move. Vivaldi's chief executive Jon von Tetzchner called the new data harvesting venture "nasty".

In the post, Carike said: "WordPress powers approximately 41% of the web – and this community can help combat racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and discrimination against those with mental illness with four lines of code."

The post added that the sites which wanted to use FLoC would undoubtedly have the technical talent on board to override the proposed filter.

"When balancing the stakeholder interests, the needs of website administrators who are not even aware that this is something that they need to mitigate – and the interests of the users and visitors to those sites, is simply more compelling," the post said.

"Furthermore, for WordPress versions that support privacy settings, we can easily add an on-off toggle to enable websites to opt in. This would only require a few more lines of code and only a couple of new strings."

Regarding the need to roll out a fix right away, the post pointed out that the next WordPress version, 5.8, was only scheduled to be released in July, while FLoC was likely to be rolled out in April.

"Furthermore, a significant number of WordPress sites only update to minor versions. By back-porting, we can protect more sites and more visitors to those sites – and amplify the impact," the post added.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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