Although several media and institutions oppose it, arguing that millions of euros in revenue would be lost, the truth is that Google still wants to load cookies in one way or another. In early 2021, the company launched a proposal known as FLoC, nestled in its new “Privacy Sandbox”, but it now appears to be backing down.

Since its federated learning-based FLoC seems to have drawn quite a bit of criticism based on being able to trace specific people (curiously, the FLoC should anonymize them and group them by likes), Google is now proposing that it be the browser itself which labels users according to their tastes. This is what Google has released in the form of a new API called “Topics” for its “Privacy Sandbox”.

From user groups to anonymous labels

As we said, Google already launched its first proposal a year ago to end the cookies stored on our devices. Thus, the proposal consisted of the FLoC, a federated learning system that should group users into groups according to their different interests. And these interests have been collected based on your various web page visits and use of other services.

So, instead of keeping track of every site visited, our visits had to load us with virtual labels to more accurately manage advertising. Since these user groups grouped under the labels would consist of thousands of people, it would be impossible to identify specific users, which can be done via cookies. However, Google has received quite a bit of criticism and is now back on the road to eliminating cookies with its “Topics”.

Google will ultimately not implement this federated learning FLoC system and will replace it with a new proposal that gives the ranking of our tastes to the browser itself. These ‘Topics’ are interests that the browser registers, for example if we like classical music based on our visits, or if we are sports or video game lovers. Google has promised not to add sensitive features such as race, gender or religion to these “topics”.

For ‘Topics’, the browser will only use our browsing history for the last three weeks, so if we are classified in the group of rock music lovers and stop visiting these pages for a while, the browser should declassify us. Thus, when placing advertisements on the pages, the browser must provide three random “Topics” from those assigned by our profile, and advertisements oriented to these tags must appear.

But as with FLoC federated learning, the new “topics” may not be implemented as now will be the time to review the new proposal. The movements of the company for its new project will be seen in the next few weeks and over time we will finally know if these ‘Topics’ are the cause of the permanent death of cookies or not.

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