Google’s New ‘Topics’ Functionality to replace Cookies

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Google’s Topic function represents a pioneering step in online advertising and privacy protection. It introduces a nuanced approach to user data by assigning generalized topic tokens to websites individuals visit, instead of invasive tracking. These tokens, extracted locally within the user’s browser, provide websites with insights into broad user interests while respecting privacy. Google’s taxonomy, comprising hundreds to thousands of topics, serves as the foundation for this innovative system. Users have the ability to view, manage, and even disable topics associated with their browsing history, affording them unprecedented control. By allowing advertisers to access relevant data without compromising personal privacy, the Topic function seeks to revolutionize the digital advertising landscape while empowering users with the choice to participate.

Key components of Topics:

  1. Essence of Topics: Topics are individual topic tokens assigned to websites a user visits. These topics are not detailed information about the user’s browsing but rather generalized categories.
  2. Privacy Forward: The Topics system aims to enhance user privacy by only revealing broad topic interests without detailed tracking of individual site visits.
  3. Taxonomy: Google’s Topics system is built upon a taxonomy of topics, with hundreds to thousands of categories that websites can be associated with.
  4. Browser Inference: The user’s browser infers topics by mapping site hostnames to topics using a classifier model. The topics are chosen locally and do not rely on external servers.
  5. Epochs: Browsing activity is divided into one-week epochs, and only the most recent three epochs are retained, ensuring a rolling basis of data retention.
  6. Document Object Model (DOM): The Topics API adds a “browsingTopics” property to the document object of web pages, allowing websites and advertisers to query the user’s topics.
  7. Weekly Topics: Websites can obtain up to three topics that represent the user’s interests from the past three weeks, with topics chosen based on hashing and user history.
  8. Filtering Topics: Only websites that observed the user visiting relevant sites within the previous three weeks can receive specific topics, preventing indiscriminate topic sharing.
  9. User Control: Users can see and control the topics associated with their browser, including deleting or disabling them. The Topics API can also be completely disabled.
  10. Limitations: The Topics API is subject to user opt-outs, incognito mode, browser history clearing, and Permissions-Policy headers from websites that choose to disable it.
  11. Advertising Revenue: The system aims to strike a balance between user privacy and providing relevant advertising revenue to websites without relying on invasive tracking methods.
  12. Alternative to Tracking: Topics offer users an alternative to traditional tracking methods while giving them control over the information they share.
  13. User Choice: Users can decide whether to share their interests with websites, making it a voluntary and individual choice.

Google’s Topics function represents a significant leap in information security within the online advertising realm. By prioritizing user privacy and minimizing the data shared with advertisers, it mitigates the risks associated with invasive tracking. This innovative approach helps safeguard sensitive user information while maintaining a sustainable digital advertising ecosystem, enhancing overall information security on the internet.

Beesham Sarendranauth

Author: Beesham Sarendranauth