Update Ensuring privacy while still showing personalized ads is a tricky proposition

SeriousHoax

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Mar 16, 2019
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Yesterday, we learned that Google has killed off one of its Privacy Sandbox initiative called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), and is instead replacing it with "Topics". I read the research paper behind FLoC last year and published my thoughts on how clustering users could preserve individual privacy. At the same time, I emphasized that in order for the endeavor to be successful, "Google will need to have strong governance and security procedures in place which ensure that users cannot be de-identified by combining their data with other signals". It's clear that Google was not able to satisfactorily resolve these concerns around monopolizing individual data, hence the latest pivot to Topics.
I plan to publish an explainer on Google's Topics API in layman terms later in the week too, but for this piece, I just want to explore the idea of ensuring individual privacy while still showing personalized ads. Google's Privacy Sandbox plans to tackle this problem using privacy-preserving mechanisms, with its latest endeavors in the area being FLoC and Topics, and while they may appear to be a technically better implementation than what we have right now, I believe the actual uphill battle is shaping public perception, not the technology.
Google could announce one technology or API after the next, but the fact of the matter is that it has to regain public trust and win support from competitors for its efforts to be successful.

Magnifying glass over google logo

Let's take Topics as an example. Throughout its blog post, Google continues to emphasize that it will collect your interests (or topics) from a rolling time window of three weeks and then show only one interest per week to a website and its advertising partners. All your topics will be stored...............
Read the full article here.....
 

oldschool

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I think the TLDR is:

  • Trust Google and 3rd party advertising partners or disable Topics, cookies and trackers
  • Get personalized content or go your own way without it
  • Use Google for personalized content or Brave/Vivaldi for non-personalized content or do what your geeky instincts tell you to do to avoid all this nonsense
 
F

ForgottenSeer 92963

@oldschool TLDR assumes that the user has control over the gathered data ("disable Topics, cookies and trackers") and Brave/Vivaldi won't track you at all when you opt-out (raises the question how are Brave/Vivaldi going to earn money?"). I have doubts on both because we are addicted to free internet/webservices (and someone/something has to pay for it)

I think this sentence of the good read posted by @SeriousHoax says it all "I believe the actual uphill battle is shaping public perception, not the technology.". As recent research shows the adblock hype is over its top (since 2016 percentage users with adblocker installed dropped from 60 to 40 percent).

The Click Through Rate of Brave is four times higher than market average. This shows that with a more sympathetic public image and a moderate/hold back frequency of showing ads, a middle road is possible in which web-based services earn money through advertising and the users get those services for free without being hassled to much.