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Google replaces Federated Learning of Cohorts with Topics

The alternative to third-party cookies proposed by Google known as the Federated Learning of Cohorts, or FLoC, is dead in the water.

In its place, Google has created Topics which is still an interest-based way of serving users advertising although what Google is proposing is more broad than cookies or FLoC.

“With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like ‘Fitness’ or ‘Travel & Transportation,’ that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers. When you visit a participating site, Topics picks just three topics, one topic from each of the past three weeks, to share with the site and its advertising partners,” explains product director of the privacy sandbox at Chrome, Vinay Goel.

Sensitive categories of Topics including gender and race are not included in what data Google will analyse when determining what ads might be relevant to a user.

What we’re curious about is how detailed Google’s recommendations are. While the firm uses examples such as “Fitness”, that is an incredibly broad topic and we have to think that advertisers will demand more specific information.

How the likes of Mozilla, Brave and the Electronic Frontier Foundation will react to Topics remains to be seen. However, we suspect that more questions will be asked about how Topics are determined and how Google iterates on them.

The good news is that FLoC is dead but Topics still doesn’t feel like the final solution to cookies. With the removal of cookies right around the corner, time is running out to find a viable alternative.

Google says it will be launching a developer trial of Topics “soon” that will allow those in the advertising industry to test the feature out. For now you can head here and here to learn more about Topics.

[Source – Google]

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