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Google abandons FLoC, introduces Topics API to replace tracking cookie

Google abandons FLoC, introduces Topics API to replace tracking cookie

Google is withdrawing plans to replace third-party cookies with FLoC, instead offering a new mechanism for interest-based advertising, the Topics API. The theme works by indicating your five interests, such as "health" or "travel and transportation" based on your web activity, as measured by participating sites for a week.

Your browser will store these themes for three weeks before they are removed. Google says these categories are "selected entirely on your device" and do not include "any external servers, including Google servers." When you visit a website, the topic will show only three of your interests to the site and its advertising partners, including "one topic from each of the last three weeks".

As noted on the Topix API GitHub page, it currently has about 350 available topics in its ad assortment (though Google plans to add anywhere from "a few hundred" to "a few thousand"). Google says the topics will not include any "sensitive categories" like race or gender. And if you're using Chrome, the company is making tools to let you view and remove themes, as well as turn off the feature.

As promised, Google's time to replace third-party cookies in Chrome is running out by 2023. The company is planning to start developer trials for the theme in Chrome, but there is no information on when it will start.

"Browsers traditionally only work for users - remember how cool it was when they started blocking all pop-up ads?" John Bergmeier, legal director of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit that promotes an open Internet. "Google's concepts on the subject seem to reverse this."

Google's previous replacement for third-party cookies, FLoC (or Federated Learning of Cohorts), is a form of interest-based tracking that identifies you based on your "group" or group of people with similar interests.

Privacy critics such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued that the system poses additional privacy risks, such as making it easier for advertisers to identify you with browser fingerprinting, a tool used by sites about your device and browser. is done. To obtain specific information, and may also expose information about your demographics, potentially resulting in discriminatory targeted advertising. Because of these concerns, browsers like Brave, Vivaldi, Edge and Mozilla have all refused to use it.

But Google's idea of ​​assigning topics to users isn't new at all. As the EFF points out, Google's privacy sandbox in 2019 weighed in on the idea of ​​PIGIN, otherwise known as "noise including personal interest." Like Topics, it would work by sharing a list of interests with advertisers, but as EFF's Bennett Cypher explained at the time, it could still "provide a vast new stream of information to trackers that they can use to track their content." to track." You can create or enhance your own user profile. A recent update says that a new version of that approach, under the name FLEDGE, is in early testing on Chrome and Chrome Canary. Google will share more details on that plan and "measurement technical proposals" later this week.

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