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Google is testing a replacement for third-party cookies

Image used for representation purpose.

Image used for representation purpose.

Google is testing a replacement for third-party cookies after experimenting with its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) concept for nearly a year.

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The replacement will be browser-based approach that will show relevant content and ads while preserving a user’s privacy. The feature would let the browser recognise five topics every week based on the user’s recent browsing history. For instance, the browser would match a sports website with the topic “Sports” and a yoga website with “Fitness”.

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The topic identification will be done within the user’s device, without sharing data with external servers, including Google servers, the company said, adding that “topics are kept for only three weeks” and the older ones are deleted. The system then selects three topics, one new topic per week, to share with sites the user visits.

According to Google, the browser would use a finite number of topics picked from a human-curated, publicly visible list, initially containing about 350 topics. Moreover, the topics list would be curated to not include sensitive categories, like race, gender, or religion.

Since the new approach is powered by the browser, users will be able to see the topics and remove any they don’t like, or disable the feature entirely in Chrome Settings.

Google’s new system for interest-based advertising will replace FLoC , its earlier attempt that was developed to protect individuals’ privacy by placing them in a large crowd, a cohort, of thousands of people with similar recent browsing activity without any of them being individually identified.

“Topics was informed by our learning and widespread community feedback from our earlier FLoC trials, and replaces our FLoC proposal,” Vinay Goel, Principal Privacy Engineer (Director) at Google said.

The search giant had said it plans to phase out cookies by the end of 2023 . Cookies are a popular web tracking tool that constitute the foundation of the online advertising industry. The company has faced criticism from advertisers and privacy groups, and also come under regulatory scrutiny. Earlier this month, France’s data privacy watchdog fined Google 150 million euros over its cookie policies .

“Soon, we 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,” Goel noted, adding that the final design of how Topics works will be decided based on feedback and what the firm learns in the trial.


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Printable version | May 17, 2022 5:20:30 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/internet/google-is-testing-a-replacement-for-third-party-cookies/article38338686.ece