Google Receives Backlash Over Ad-Cookie Replacement 

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Google has faced scathing criticism for its “indecision” on which system it will use to replace cookies.

This comes as the tech giant announced an interest-based user-tracking system called Topics, which would replace its previous proposal, Floc.

Third-party cookies use a user’s browsing history to target ads, which then follow the user on each page visited.

Privacy advocates and regulators are staunch critics of this type of ad target.

Google has already agreed to limit the number of websites that are accessed through its Chrome browser, which has a whopping 65% market share. The original plan was to block them, but the tech giant has postponed this to 2023.

Federated Learning of Cohorts (Floc) aimed to obscure users’ individual identities by dividing them into groups or herds with identical browsing histories.

The idea proved very unpopular with both advertisers and privacy experts.

Digital marketing agency AccuraCast founder Farhad Divecha said it “didn’t make sense to most advertisers, who aren’t technical data analysts.”

“The system was met with a lot of criticism when Google launched it,” he said, “and it largely felt like a half-baked idea Google prematurely pushed out the door in response to changes in advertising and privacy.”

Google confirmed in a blog post that Floc would now be replaced by Topics, an identical system that divides users into topic clusters that span 350 categories such as fitness or travel.

When a user visits a website, Topics displays three of its interests in the last three weeks. However, it does not share sensitive interests, such as gender or race. In addition, users may remove those they do not like – or opt-out of the feature altogether.

Privacy-focused browser Brave said Google’s change of plan was essentially more of the same.

“The Topics API [application programming interface] is, at root, the same idea as Floc,” said Peter Snyder, the company’s director of privacy. “In both proposals, the browser watches the sites you visit, uses that information to categorize your browsing interests, and then has the browser share that info back with advertisers.”

For more information, read the original story from the BBC.

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