Google gives post-cookie ad tech update

The push to eliminate cookies comes as “80% of people are now concerned about the state of their online privacy,” Taylor said in a conference call, “and almost half are turning away from services due to privacy concerns. That’s scary.”

Google’s tests are being watched closely by the ad industry, but the trials have been slow going. Advertisers have already moved off cookies in other ecosystems, such as within Apple. Meanwhile, ad tech companies such as The Trade Desk, LiveRamp and Neustar, among others, are developing advertising IDs that replicate the utility of cookies. Supply-side ad platforms that work with publishers to sell internet ads are coming up with their own post-cookie products.

Google needs to adopt new privacy measures or risk consumers migrating to devices and browsers that prioritize data security. Apple has made privacy a centerpiece of its marketing, even as it builds its own ads business. Google already has a powerful position in internet ad markets and any changes it makes to data-sharing must take into account its many competitors in ad tech. Google is being investigated in the U.S. and Europe over its competitive practices, and regulators are watching if its privacy changes unfairly affect rivals.

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Google tweaked another portion of Privacy Sandbox this week, renaming FLEDGE to “Protected Audience API.” FLEDGE was an unwieldy acronym that stood for “first locally executed decision over groups experiment.” Google said the name change reflected the fact that FLEDGE is entering the next stage of development and will be more widely available for testing. FLEDGE is a way to run ad auctions without revealing personal data about consumers.

In the recent Privacy Sandbox test, Google tried the Topics API, which is a core component of its post-cookie system. Instead of tracking a person’s entire web history like cookies do, the Topics API collects a handful of contextual interests about the consumer, and those interests go into ad targeting. The Topics API, however, cannot work on its own to replace cookies, Taylor said. “Topics API is not being designed as a standalone offering or ad tech in a box,” Taylor said.

For that reason, the tests combined Topics API data with other contextual advertising tools and with signals from publishers, known as publisher provided IDs.