AdGuard Blog: Google stays deaf to mounting criticism over its attempt to marry tracking and privacy

Gandalf_The_Grey

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It’s no secret that Google for years has been trying to sunset the third-party cookie, the bedrock of retargeting ads and once the online tracking essential. While many other browsers are already blocking third-party cookies, seeing them as a privacy threat, Google still allows them in Chrome and will continue to do so until at least 2024. The reason Chrome has lagged behind its competitors is that Google hoped to create an alternative to the third-party cookie that would satisfy both advertisers and privacy-conscious users. Its proposed replacement, the Topics API, is promising to do just that. But sadly, and predictably, it has failed in its main goal — making interest-based advertising more private. In our in-depth article on the subject, we explained why in detail. And it’s not that our bar is set too high. Various privacy advocates, browser vendors and other industry players have poked holes in Google’s approach as well.

Now, Google’s proposed API has been dealt another blow. After reviewing the API, the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG), a special working group within the World Wide Web Consortium, concluded that Topics fell short of achieving its ambition goal: that is to protect people’s privacy while also protecting advertisers from losing revenue. But what makes the Topics API, the cornerstone of Google’s privacy initiative, so bad?
The core idea of Topics is to allow advertisers to keep targeting users with interest-based ads, while protecting the latter from unwanted tracking and profiling. As it turns out, you probably still can’t have your cake and eat it too.

According to TAG, the new API does not change the “status quo of inappropriate surveillance on the web,” because it still allows the browser to share information about a user’s browsing history with websites. Moreover, it does not give the user “fine-grained control” over what those sites can learn about them. The TAG wants Google to stop Topics API in its tracks. “We do not want to see it proceed further,” the group said.
The overwhelmingly negative reaction to FLoC once prompted Google to scrap it and look for alternatives. But this time, despite the threat of limited browser adoption, Google has signaled that it has no intention of backing down. In its response to TAG, Google said it would proceed implementing the Topics API as planned.

While we appreciate the input of TAG, we disagree with their characterization that Topics maintains the status quo. Google is committed to Topics, as it is a significant privacy improvement over third-party cookies, and we’re moving forward
 

vtqhtr413

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Google’s attempt to snuff out third-party web tracking cookies is moving along. The company announced today that its Privacy Sandbox APIs will be available to all Chrome users in July. In addition, it laid out the next steps for web developers to start testing and integrating the new system later this year.

Anthony Chavez, Google’s VP of Product Management, recommends developers begin preparing for the new system soon after the July API release. Next, the company will let devs simulate Chrome third-party cookie deprecation “for a configurable percentage of their users” starting in Q4 2023, followed by one percent of Chrome users shifting to Privacy Sandbox in Q1 2024. Google is still targeting the second half of next year for the broader deprecation of third-party cookies in Chrome.

“With this milestone, developers can utilize these APIs to conduct scaled, live-traffic testing, as they prepare to operate without third-party cookies,” said Chavez.
 

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