Last summer, we wrote a well-read article about Floc, a venture for Google’s dominant Chrome browser that was launched as a possible replacement for third-party cookies. These have long been used for advertisers to target ads based on perceived interests, surfing habits and so on.
But Floc faced heavy criticism, including from the interest group EFF, which pointed out several potential privacy issues. The idea with Floc was to place Chrome users in different groups – cohorts – based on their surfing behaviors, which EFF feared could be combined with other data points to facilitate the mapping of specific users’ identities and surfing patterns.
Now, however, there is another sound in the bark. In a blog posts announces Vinay Goel, responsible for Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative, that it is investigating Topics as a future replacement for the third-party cake. The company must have changed after extensive user feedback.
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Topics, topics in Swedish, in short, means that the browser chooses a number of basic ones based on surfing history, such as “training” and “travel”. These are hand-picked on a weekly basis and according to Google, all processing should take place directly on the device you are browsing with. If you surf to a site that is a member of Topics, three of your interests (historically) will be selected and communicated to the advertising network that places advertising on the page.
Video from Google that illustrates how Topics is supposed to work.
Also Read: Google Delays Blocking Third-Party Cookies By 2023
After three weeks, “old” interests are deleted and Chrome fills with new ones. Sensitive topics, such as sexual orientation, religion, origin, and so on, will not be included when Google pulls the strings to gather your potential interest markers. Google states in the post that users should have a greater opportunity to control what information is collected about them.
Much work remains to be done with Google’s Topics initiative, if at all. The company announces that it will only decide after an extended test period where obtaining feedback is an important part.