Google Privacy Sandbox Initiative ushers in interest-based advertising with Topics API

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Today, Google’s Privacy Sandbox initiative, which is designed to improve web privacy for users, announced the launch of the Topics API for interest-based advertising. The API enables a user’s web browser to analyze their browsing history and determine what topics represent their top interests. 

Then, once the user visits a website, the Topics API will select three of those topics to share with the site and its advertising partners. The web browser can only store topics for a maximum of three weeks, and Google Chrome users will have the option to view the topics associated with them, remove them, or to disable the feature completely.

The announcement comes ahead of Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies on Chrome, and will give consumers greater control over their data by storing it on their local device, while still ensuring that advertisers have access to sufficient information to deliver a relevant experience. 

As a result, after years of using third-party cookies to track visitors and collect data to produce targeted ads, technical decision makers and organizations will need to gather insights from the Topics API’s collected interests if they want to effectively promote products and services to Chrome users. 

Moving away from third-party cookies to interest-based advertising 

The announcement comes amid consumer concerns over how marketers use their data. Last year, a poll found that 55% of Americans say they are not very, or at all, comfortable sharing their personal data in exchange for a better website experience, with 37% saying they are very concerned about how websites use their personal data. 

The Google Privacy Sandbox initiative and now the Topics API are aiming to address these challenges by giving consumers more control over what information they share with advertisers, so they can better maintain their privacy online. 

“Our vision for the Privacy Sandbox hasn’t changed. We want to enable a sustainable advertising ecosystem for the open web with strong privacy protections for users. This vision has the greatest chance of success if we work with the ads ecosystem to make this fundamental shift in manageable stages, introducing new technologies that can replace cross-site tracking methods, learning what works and where we can make improvements, and enforcing stronger privacy protections over time,” a spokesperson for Google commented. 

Topics attempts to offer less intrusive data collection for advertisers 

The Topics API stands as a solution alongside the ADTech software market, which was valued at $16.27 billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $29.85 billion by 2026. While third-party cookies are Topics APIs main competitor, as they get phased out device or browser fingerprinting will become its main alternative. 

Many organizations use device fingerprinting to identify devices or browsers, and gather information about users. This includes browser version, operating system, active plugins, language, as well as how they browse through the site. 

While device fingerprinting is a useful technique for enterprises to identify users on new or old devices, to target them with relevant offers or services, the information it gathers on users is also quite invasive and extensive. 

Topics give advertisers and organizations actionable information on users so they can view the topics that users are interested in, but protects user privacy by preventing them from having direct access to browsing history, the websites they’ve visited, and their behavior on other sites.

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