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Google is planning to replace cookies

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Under pressure from the EU and privacy advocates, Google has been spending a lot of time considering how the digital advertising landscape will look once third-party cookies are gone. 

The company initially created Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), before announcing Google Topics as a replacement, which broadly splits the web into different topics and divides people into these groupings depending on their interests. 

Now, Google is moving ahead with further testing of Google Topics and other Privacy Sandbox initiatives. As reported by The Register, the search giant has posted messages to developers outlining tests of the Topics and FLEDGE APIs in the Chrome beta set for March 31.  

Whereas Topics splits up the web up into different buckets, FLEDGE aims to facilitate remarketing or showing ads on websites based on prior browsing history. 

Google offered a lengthy explanation on GitHub, arguing that the tools would offer “strong privacy guarantees, as well as time limits on group membership, transparency into how the advertiser interest groups are built and used, and granular or global controls over this type of ad targeting.” 

Not everyone is happy 

The latest cookie replacement from Google hasn’t come without scrutiny, however. Google has been criticized by a number of different parties, including browser maker Brave, over perceived deficiencies in its plans. 

“The Topics API only touches the smallest, most minor privacy issues in FLoC, while leaving its core intact,” said Brave in a blog post. “At issue is Google’s insistence on sharing information about people’s interests and behaviors with advertisers, trackers, and others on the web that are hostile to privacy. These groups have no business—and no right—learning such sensitive information about you.”

It remains to be seen whether Google’s latest cookie replacements will stick. But given the company’s revenue streams are reliant on tracking people across the web, it faces a race against time to develop and deploy novel systems that will allow it to do so without compromising on privacy.

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