Google Replacing FLoC With New Topics API

Renewed focus on privacy for targeted ads

Google has announced that it's killing off its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) and replacing it with the new Topics API, after a year of feedback.

FLoC was meant to replace third-party cookies as a way for companies to learn about people's interests and show tailored ads. According to the official GitHub post, Google Topics has a greater focus on privacy and will focus on a person's recent browsing history rather than an extended period.

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FLoC worked by grouping people together based on their interests but was met with controversy when it was released. Even digital rights groups called FLoC "a terrible idea" and claimed it allowed "predatory targeting." Other web browsing companies, like Mozilla, refused to adopt it.

Google Topics aims to do better. The new API will determine a list of the top five topics based on a person's browsing history for a particular week. After collecting that browsing history, Topics will compare that data against a list of roughly 350 topics from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

From there, Topics constructs the five topics, which an advertiser can view to show a tailored ad to you based on your data. Google keeps that information for three weeks before deleting and starting again.

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Topics will try to exclude "sensitive topics" to maintain privacy, but Google doesn't clarify what's considered sensitive. Google states that it will work with external partners to define sensitive topics better.

The Topics API will be available on Chrome, but no launch date has been stated, and it's unknown if other browsers will adopt it given the FLoC controversy.

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