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Google abandons FLoC, proposes new 'Topics' API to replace cookies

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Google Chrome Logo (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google has given up on the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).
  • The search giant has now proposed the Topics API as a replacement for third-party cookies.
  • Google claims the Topics API will take user privacy a "step forward," while ensuring advertisers receive enough relevant information.

Back in August 2019, Google introduced a new initiative called Privacy Sandbox to enhance privacy for users on the web. As part of the initiative, Google plans to eliminate third-party cookies completely and replace them with first-party alternatives.

While Google proposed Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) as an alternative to third-party cookies last year, it has now announced a new Privacy Sandbox proposal informed by its "learning and widespread community feedback from earlier FLoC trials."

Topics, which is the search giant's new Privacy Sandbox proposal, will replace its FLoC proposal. The Topics API will allow your browser to determine a few topics that represent your top interests for that week, based on your browsing history.

Google says topics are stored for only three weeks, and old topics are deleted. What's more, topics will be selected by the browser entirely on your device. No external servers will be involved. Google is expected to share the full list of available topics publicly sometime later this year.

When a user visits a participating site, Topics will pick three topics to share with the site and its advertising partners. Google is also building user controls that will allow you to see the topics and remove any that you don't want to be selected. You will even be able to disable the feature completely.

Google also notes that topics are "thoughtfully curated to exclude sensitive categories, such as gender, sexual orientation, or race." Since Topics is browser-powered, it gives you much greater control over how websites share your data with advertisers.

Google is set to kill third-party cookies in Chrome sometime in 2023. While Topics does sound like a solid alternative to cookies, it remains to be seen if it will be accepted by the best Chrome alternatives such as Firefox and Microsoft Edge.

Babu Mohan
Babu Mohan
4 Comments
  • While I whole heartedly hate Cookies, I don't trust Google that they will not be hiding something in TOPICS.
  • Another one bites the dust, for once it was a good thing (for now) though. Google wasted no time killing FLoC
  • Has anyone (especially AC staff writers) signed up for DuckDuckGo's new App Tracking beta programme yet?
    I have and I've been using it for nearly 2 weeks now. The results are astonishing! Over 7000 attempts blocked per week, and many of them from sources I wouldn't have expected.
    Example.... Browsing a few articles on AC from a DuckDuckGo web search blocks 30 trackers. But browsing a few articles on the AC app seems to be blocking as many as 300 attempts!
    I've no idea how or if those numbers are accurate but it's eye-opening at the very least. Example... I'm in the UK but Verizon always wants to track me on AC.
  • Wow and its not even the end of January and Google has added FloC to the growing list in " Killed by Google" 😂😂🤣🤣