Google Chrome is making a new ad platform available to most users via its ‘Privacy Sandbox’, the company announced on Thursday. The search giant previously announced that it plans to phase out support for third party cookies that are used to track people as they browse the web. Instead, the company has built a browser-based advertising mechanism that can track you without cookies, previously called the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC). Chrome users will be informed about the new “ad privacy feature” when the ad platform is enabled on their browser.
In a blog post, Google revealed that the ad topics feature that is part of the Privacy Sandbox feature — previously available to beta testers — has now reached “general availability” on Chrome. Google says it has worked with publishers, developers, adtech providers, and consumers to develop the new system that will eventually replace the use of third-party cookies on Google’s browser.
Once the Privacy Sandbox platform rolls out to you on Chrome, you will be presented with a popup that informs you about the new tracking mechanism. Some users have reported seeing a “Turn on” button suggesting that the feature is opt-in, while others have shared screenshots of the same prompt with a “Got it” button that suggests the feature may have to be manually disabled. You can do this by visiting the Chrome settings section and clicking on Privacy and Security > Ad privacy to modify your settings.
When enabled, Google’s new tracking mechanism will make a list of “ad topics”, by studying your browsing history. These ad topics are then shared with a website when it wants to show you targeted ads, which means that you will see ads based on your browsing history.
According to the company, Google Chrome will drop support for third party cookies for one percent of all users in Q1 2024. The company says that the “countdown to the planned deprecation of third-party cookies is in full effect.”
If this sounds like an equally bad method of tracking users across the Internet as third party cookies, then you might want to consider switching to Apple’s Safari browser, or the open source Firefox browser from Mozilla. Unlike Chrome and many Chromium-based browsers, both Firefox and Safari block third-party cookies and do not include support for the Privacy Sandbox. iCloud+ and Apple One subscribers can also use Private Relay feature to hide their IP address from websites and trackers.