Vivaldi will help combat web browser privacy pitfalls
Google is changing the game again the way we are tracked around the web, and this change could have significant security and privacy implications. After launching FLoC, a technology designed to help websites circumvent privacy regulations last year, the company is now aiming to release an equivalent derivative, a third-party cookie replacement technology called Topics.
Since FLoC was exposed last year, it’s another attempt by the company to give advertisers a way to target ads, allowing them to bypass basic privacy regulations. With Topics, Google is just distorting user tracking and profiling in a different way than its FLoC predecessor. In an overview of how the Topics API works, its purpose is clearly defined:
“Key use cases browsers want to support […] is interest-based advertising […] a form of personalized advertising in which an advertisement is selected for the user based on interests derived from sites they have visited in the past”
Or in other words, unauthorized behavioral profiling while you are using your web browser. Let’s take a look at how Topics works, what it means for web browsing, and an alternative web browser that takes its users’ privacy seriously.
Topics, a not-so-off-topic tech capability
For those who are somewhat inexperienced in web privacy, fear not, because you have certainly encountered it and most likely on a daily basis. Have you ever been asked if you accept cookies from a web page?
Most of the time, when these small windows appear, you just need to click “Accept” to dismiss them so that you can continue with whatever you are doing on this webpage. You should know, however, that cookies are actually small files that websites send to your device and then use to monitor and remember certain information about you. This can range from what’s in your shopping cart on an e-commerce site, to your search patterns on Google, to your login information. And if you refuse cookie tracking, sometimes the website will not work.
Subjects have essentially the same scope as third-party cookies. Google claims that certain random “topics” may be offered by the system from time to time, which will “decrease” the ability of topics to share a given topic regarding your web browsing that will be automatically incriminating or identifying. Nevertheless, Topics still picks up what you write as soon as you open your web browser.
The subjects represent the same thing problem as a FLoC, allowing third parties to create profiles no matter how many privacy mitigations you put around it. Essentially acting like spyware, Topics lets your browser learn more about your interests as you move around the web, while staying on topic when you open and close tabs. The information is then routed to advertisers to begin building profiles, grouping users appropriately into categories by “topic”, then using this data as ammunition to target ads to your specific user profile.
Browse the web without secret doors
Vivaldi is a browser built on the belief that a browser should adapt to you and your personal preferences, including privacy preferences. A browser somehow became an extension of our personal lives with many things channeled to the screen at the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago, beginning a digital age that has continued ever since.
Vivaldi browser is unique in that it comes with an ad and tracker blocker integrated, without the need to install an extension. By simply enabling protection in the privacy settings, the browser also blocks the majority of annoying cookie consent dialogs via the Vivaldi cookie crumbler. This feature works by preventing websites from asking permission in the first place, and since lack of consent is not permission, websites should keep their cookies to themselves.
To better understand the company’s fundamentals, here’s what Vivaldi founder and CEO, Jon Stephenson von Tetzchnerhad to say about the current situation regarding FLoC and its new Topics version:
“We believe it is wrong to spy on people’s behavior and profile them. Period. It is easy to be misled by this new variant of FLoC, as it seems to have brought positive changes,” said Stephenson von Tetzchner. “That being said, it still violates your privacy, and to claim that behavioral profiling can be okay as long as you hide some information, or sometimes add false information, really misses the point that you shouldn’t profile in the first place. square.”
So, unlike other web browsers, Vivaldi has the simple basic principle that you should choose your privacy, not your web browser. With technology advancing at an increasing speed and no one quite sure what the next big tech company’s escape will be, it’s good to know that there’s a web browser company watching over its users.
As they say, the more you know, the more you know. Until now, you might have thought that browsing the web on your personal devices was a private matter. But in fact, some web browsers allow these invisible eyes to monitor and document your movements online. For more privacy while browsing, see the Vivaldi Browser today.