Google has announced that it has finalised the programming interface for its Privacy Sandbox. This API is a collection of technologies that have been integrated into Google Chrome to prevent user tracking and still enable advertisers to display targeted advertising to their audience. Third-party cookies will be blocked automatically for one percent of users from the first quarter of 2024. With the new Privacy Sandbox APIs, website operators should begin incorporating them into their website code to avoid losing advertising revenue.
Privacy Sandbox aims to move the assignment of users from foreign servers used by advertising networks to the browsers of individual users. Users will now have the ability to influence personalised advertising through the settings that Google offers in Chrome. Chrome tracks user behaviour internally and logs the websites visited to deduce three topics that the user has shown interest in over the past three weeks. The Topics API then retrieves these three topics and transmits them to an advertising network for tailored advertisement.
Retargeting shopping websites can also use the Protected Audience API (now referred to as FLEDGE) to inform the browser that they would like to serve ads to a specific user in future. This allows for more targeted advertisements, although some users may find it invasive. The Trust Token API has also been introduced to prevent ad fraud facilitating the generation of advertising revenue through fake traffic.
Browser fingerprinting is another way that websites try to recognise users against their will. The Privacy Sandbox contains several measures to ensure that Chrome provides less information in the future. These measures involve formulating the user agent very sparingly, isolating data storage from each other, using DNS over HTTPS, hiding the IP and separating information on individual websites.
While Google presents itself as an advocate of privacy in the advertising industry, competitors such as Facebook are critically observing the developments. Nevertheless, it is a positive development to move away from third-party cookies and tracking as it has disenfranchised users who have not had a say in their interaction. However, it is important to acknowledge that there is an ideological underpinning to this move by Google as the company believes that information should not be hidden behind paywalls.