Google’s plan to reinvent ad targeting for the postponed post-cookie era has been further complicated by privacy concerns. Topicsthe Privacy Sandbox proposal for personalized advertising, It continues to rack up criticism. This project has been accused of not being appropriate as a monitoring tool. Despite this, the company has rejected the complaints, part of this is because some regulatory bodies are on their side.
Topics was seen as a way for web browsers to see what people are doing online in a non-creepy way. It is a mechanism to determine and report on the interests of individuals, without revealing the identity of individuals to website operators and advertisers. It is the second attempt by Google to replace “cookies”, which will disappear permanently during the second half of 2024. Its first attempt, known as FLoC (Federal Learning of Cohorts), was unsuccessful as its API had deficiencies from a data protection point of view. With Topics we wanted to solve this problem.
Last week, the Technical Architecture Group (TAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the web’s technical body, weighed in with its evaluation of the Topics API. The group’s findings turned out not to be good news for Google, which they say is failing to protect users and failing to achieve its goals.
W3C disagrees with Topics
The W3C position is aligned with the opinion of the developers of browsers such as Safari and Mozilla Firefox. According to Amy Guy, a member of the W3C, the main problem is that the information derived from the user’s browsing history is shared with the apps that use the API. “This is done in such a way that the user does not have fine-grained control over what is revealed and also over the context in which it appears.”
Despite this opposition, the UK’s privacy watchdog, the Information Commission Office (ICO), has agreed to let Google continue.
The tech giant is determined to continue using Topics as it believes it is a significant privacy improvement over third-party cookies.