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Google is “extremely confident” about third-party cookie alternatives



In the latest update of its plans to replace third-party advertising cookies, Google said tests of one particular proposal looked promising.

Google plans to share some new findings showing the effectiveness of its proposal for “Federal Cohort Training”, which is part of the “Sandbox” of the Chrome browser in a blog post released on Monday. The Sandbox is an initiative launched in 2019 to find alternatives to the cookie, while mitigating the impact on publishers and other players. According to Google, it is a matter of finding a solution that both protects users’ privacy and allows content to remain available on the open network for free.

Shortly after the announcement of the initiative, Google said it would stop supporting third-party cookies, which feed much of the digital advertising ecosystem, in its Chrome browser within two years from January 2020.

Chrome engineers are working with the wider industry, including the W3C web standards organization, on ideas in the Sandbox offered by Google and other advertising technology players. What is likely to work is that a number of these ideas are moving forward, Google says.

“This is a proposal,”

; Chetna Bindra, Google’s group product manager for consumer trust and confidentiality, told CNBC about FLoC’s progress. It is absolutely not the final or only offer to replace third-party cookies … There will be no final API that will move forward, it will be a collection of them that allows things like interest-based advertising, as and for metrics, where it’s critical that you can ensure that advertisers can measure the performance of their ads. ”

Bindra said the company was “extremely confident” of progress on the proposals and tests so far.

A Google post on Monday said the test results showed that FLoC (pronounced as a flock of birds, according to a number of bird suggestions such as “Turtledove” and “Swallow”) was “an effective substitute signal focused on the privacy of cookies. third parties”. . “It says advertisers can expect to see at least 95% of conversions for a dollar spent compared to cookie-based advertising.

FLoC would essentially place people in groups based on similar browsing behavior, which means that only “cohort identifiers” will be used to target them, not individual user identifiers. The web history and input for the algorithm will be stored in the browser, with the browser exposing only the “cohort” that can accommodate thousands of people.

“We really see that one of these first technologies in Sandbox for interest-based advertising is literally almost as effective as third-party cookies,” Bindra said. “There are certainly many more tests ahead. We are very interested in advertisers and advertising technologies to engage directly.

Bindra said those cohorts, which could include people who have an interest in gardening or rock music, would still allow targeting based on those interests. Instead of focusing on the individual level, this would focus on groups.

“The only difference will really be that they no longer track every user on the network. There really is this notion of privacy for those users who are now grouped in the cohort,” Bindra said.

She added that the figures from the FLoC tests should be reassuring for publishers. Chrome will then make the cohorts available for public testing with its next release in March and expects to begin testing FLoC-based cohorts with Google Ads advertisers in the second quarter, the blog post said.

Miles Younger, senior director of global data practice at MightyHive, said Sandbox’s proposals come down to “how we can embed new features in the Chrome web browser to address both user privacy and the death of a third-party cookie while maintaining the ability of brands to advertise effectively. “He spoke before the latest Google findings were published.

One of the questions is whether players will actually use it.

“I’m not sure this is something that Google is able to just switch a switch and turn it on,” he said. “Publishers need to use it. People need to start using this system. must prove that it works. ”

Paul Bannister, chief strategic officer at CafeMedia, said advertisers and publishers have some fear of the unknown as to what to do next.

“I think we all want to believe that this will be good and we all want to get to a place where users have more privacy and the network works better,” he said. But given how complex and technical the process is, it’s not clear what will really happen next.

He said there was some fear that this type of action could take advantage of the “fenced gardens” of companies like Facebook and away from open network advertising.

The UK antitrust authorities are also monitoring the plans and investigating whether the plan to remove third-party cookies from Chrome could harm online advertising competition. The Competition and Market Authority is investigating whether Google’s plans can force advertisers to shift costs to Google’s own tools at the expense of competitors.

In response to an email, Bindra said, “The Sandbox of Privacy is an open initiative from the start and we welcome the CMA’s involvement as we work to develop new proposals to support a healthy, third-party ad-free cookie network.”

Some privacy advocates are also skeptical of the “FLoC” approach. The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in 2019 that these cohorts could be used in harmful ways, allowing discriminatory advertisers to identify and filter out groups representing vulnerable populations.

“The name of the herd would essentially be a behavioral credit rating: a tattoo on your digital forehead that gives a brief summary of who you are, what you like, where you go, what you buy and who you connect with,” EFF technologist Bennett Cyphers wrote in the post. in the blog. “Herd names are likely to be incomprehensible to consumers, but they can reveal incredibly sensitive information to third parties.”

Whether machine learning will create cohorts based on health problems or a low-income condition or other sensitive attributes is a question for some.

“It can potentially do a lot of sinister and maybe illegal things,” Bannister said. “How will Chrome prevent this?”

Google says in documents that its analysis assesses whether the cohort can be sensitive without knowing why it is sensitive, and said cohorts that reveal “sensitive categories” such as race, sexuality or personal difficulties are blocked or grouping algorithms are blocked. reconfigured to reduce correlation.

Google added that it is against its policy to show personalized ads for these sensitive categories.

The nominations are open for 2021. CNBC Disruptor 50, a list of private startups using breakthrough technology to become the next generation of large public companies. Sending until Friday, February 12, from 3:00 PM EST.


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