With FLoC ( Federated Learning of Cohorts), Google had proposed a replacement for the unloved third-party cookies.

However, data protectionists had criticized the plans from the outset, saying that it was perfectly possible to identify individual persons. Now the development of FLoC has been completely stopped.

Now come the “Topics

Now “Topics” are to replace the FLoC proposal. To find out a user’s interests, Google categorizes the websites visited based on topics.

The idea behind this is that the local browser learns about the user’s interests as they move around the Internet. For this purpose, the data of the last three weeks of the browsing history is stored. Google is initially limiting the number of topics to 300, but plans to increase that number over time. Google notes that these topics will not include sensitive categories such as gender or race.


(Graphic: Google)

More data protection

The topics are more transparent and controllable. In the Chrome browser, there will be the possibility to view the topics, delete them or turn off Topics altogether. In addition, certain sensitive categories would not be covered at all.

Since the process takes place exclusively on the user’s device, it is easier to control what happens to the information. Covert tracking techniques such as fingerprinting are not needed to serve relevant ads, he said. A complete list of available topics will also be published – but this will be continuously developed.

Test phase starts in 2022

A date for a rollout has not yet been set. In 2022, the Topics will be experimented with. It is planned to test them globally, including Europe. A developer version for Chrome is expected to be released soon so that website developers and the advertising industry can conduct initial tests of the new technology.

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