Google takes another shot at replacing third-party cookie tracking

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Google introduces Topics, a new “Privacy Sandbox” proposal for interest-based advertising to phase out third-party cookies tracking users’ browsing activity. But this isn’t the first time Google has tried to solve the privacy problem.

Google Topics is a tool to give advertisers a new way to bring targeted ads to users, albeit in a more privacy-friendly way. It will replace the heavily criticized Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) advertising tech that aimed to stop tracking users for ads while still making advertisers happy. With Topics, Google is taking another shot at eliminating stalker-like cookies in browsers. 

As previously reported, FLoC was Google’s different approach to interest-based advertising tech used in Chrome browsers. It provided a “cohort label” shared by thousands of people with similar browsing habits to aid in interest-based online advertising. Instead of tracking users individually, the ad-tech would use browsing history to present relevant ads to large groups (a.k.a. cohorts).

The FLoC advertising tool aimed to improve user privacy while also supporting publishers with an advertising business tool, but was ill-received by a number of organizations. Non-profit organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) thought it was a terrible idea, as it would make predatory advertising targeting even worse. Plus, Google testing the ad-tracking feature on random Chrome users didn’t go down too well. 

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