Google introduces Topics API for Privacy Sandbox

Google started the Privacy Sandbox initiative to improve web privacy for users, while also giving publishers, creators and other developers the tools they need to build thriving businesses, ensuring a safe and healthy web for all. Advertising can be a critical tool for many businesses, and can be a key way to support access to free content online.

Google announced the launch of Topics, a new Privacy Sandbox proposal for interest-based advertising. Topics was developed from the community’s feedback from the earlier FLoC trials, replacing the FLoC proposal.

With Topics, the browser determines a handful of topics, like “Fitness”, that represent the user’s top interests for that week based on the browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on the device without involving any external servers, including Google servers. When visiting 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. Topics enables browsers to give the user meaningful transparency and control over data, and Chrome is building user controls that let the user see the topics, remove those being disliked or disable the feature completely.

Topics are thoughtfully curated to exclude sensitive categories, such as gender or race. Because Topics is powered by the browser, it provides a more recognizable way to see and control how data is shared, compared to tracking mechanisms like third-party cookies. By providing websites with the topics of interest, online businesses have an option that doesn’t involve covert tracking techniques, like browser fingerprinting, in order to continue serving relevant ads.

Example illustrations of what users can see about 3rd party cookies on the left vs Topics on the right. In Chrome, we’re building user controls that lets you see the topics, remove any you don’t like or disable the feature completely.

Example illustrations of what you can see about 3rd party cookies (left) vs Topics (right). Chrome plans to make Topics easier to recognize and manage for users.

To learn more about the details of the Topics proposal, including other design features that preserve privacy, see an overview on privacysandbox.com or read the full technical explainer.