Google Says Privacy-Minded “Batch Tracking” to Land in March

By Bill Toulas / January 26, 2021

Google has released a progress update on the “Privacy Sandbox” initiative, which aims to ramp up user privacy in the Chrome web browser. The collaboration with the community and partners has brought over 30 different proposals to the table, and five of them have already entered the early testing phase. The goal is to phase out third-party cookies once and for all, replacing them with specialized browser features that will intrinsically respect user privacy.

As the internet giant details, in March 2021, Chrome 89 will be the first to test the “Federated Learning of Cohorts API” (FLoC). This is a similar system to what Google uses to better understand what users are trying to type on Gboard without identifying them.

In this case, FLoC will push relevant/targeted apps to users by clustering them into large groups with similar browsing patterns. This will essentially anonymize individual users who will be hiding in the crowd now. Google claims the new API can be as effective as third-party cookies when it comes to interest-based ad serving.

Another interesting feature planned for tentative introduction in Chrome 89 is the “Trust Tokens API,” which has been under testing since July 2020. This system helps evaluate the user’s authenticity without actually identifying them, so fraudsters, bots, and spammers will have a harder time interacting with sites and publishers. How effective this new system will be remains to be seen, but it’ll be a step in the right direction even if it isn't a definitive solution.

Finally, Google puts “TURTLEDOVE” high in its list of priorities (but not scheduled for rollout), which is also a proposal that is being under development since last year. TURTLEDOVE is a new API meant to help maintain user privacy while still helping with targeted advertising.

The browser holds the data about what the advertiser believes a person is interested in and helps them serve ads based on interest alone. No user data are shared with the advertisers, and the same goes to ad interests and the ad networks active in the websites the user visits.

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