Google launching Topics API as third-party cookie alternative

While Google is rolling back FLoC, the third-party cookie deprecation will have a huge impact on digital advertising as Google Chrome controls over 50% of browser market & web traffic globally

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jan 27, 2022 8:38 AM  | 2 min read
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Google is rolling back Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), the system which was expected to replace third-party cookies, and is launching a new interest-based targeting proposal called Topics API. The third-party cookie deprecation will have a huge impact on digital advertising as Google Chrome controls over 50% of the browser market and web traffic globally.

According to Clearcode, third-party cookies are those created by domains other than the one the user is visiting at the time, and are mainly used for tracking and online-advertising purposes. "Today, we’re announcing Topics, a new Privacy Sandbox proposal for interest-based advertising. Topics were informed by our learning and widespread community feedback from our earlier FLoC trials and replaces our FLoC proposal," Chrome Product Director, Privacy Sandbox Vinay Goel said in a blog post.

Goel said Topics allows the browser to determine a handful of topics, like “Fitness” or “Travel & Transportation,” that represent a user's top interests in that week based on his or her browsing history. He also said that Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted.

"Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers. When you visit a participating site, Topics picks just three topics, one topic from each of the past three weeks, to share with the site and its advertising partners. Topics enables browsers to give you meaningful transparency and control over this data, and in Chrome, we’re building user controls that let you see the topics, remove any you don’t like or disable the feature completely," he added.

According to Goel, topics are thoughtfully curated to exclude sensitive categories, such as gender or race. "Because Topics is powered by the browser, it provides you with a more recognizable way to see and control how your data is shared, compared to tracking mechanisms like third-party cookies. And, by providing websites with your topics of interest, online businesses have an option that doesn’t involve covert tracking techniques, like browser fingerprinting, in order to continue serving relevant ads."

Google will launch a developer trial of Topics in Chrome that includes user controls, and enables website developers and the ads industry to try it out. The final design of the user controls and the other various technical aspects of how Topics works will be decided based on feedback and the learnings during the trial run.

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