May 26, 2022

Google has announced the next phase of testing of its privacy sandbox offering, which focuses on ad relevance and measurement.

Sandbox refers to an evolved—and now very closely monitored—ad-targeting technology stack that Google has proposed replacing with cookie-based targeted ads in Chrome by the second half of 2023 (earliest) that claims what’s best for you. User privacy is effective for generating ad revenue.

Vinay Goel, Director of Product, Privacy Sandbox, Chrome, wrote in a blog post today: “Starting today, developers can start testing themes, quirks, and attribution reporting APIs globally in Chrome Canary.

“We are transitioning to a limited number of Chrome beta users as soon as possible. Once everything goes smoothly in beta, we will make API testing available in Chrome Stable to extend testing to more Chrome users.”

The sandbox proposal consists of several components, such as a theme – Google’s idea for interest-based ad targeting through browser-based tracking of users’ web activity (which replaced FLoC; the heavily criticized Google recently launched a new version of Google’s website, recently abandoned) — and FLEDGE, Google’s offering for remarketing and custom audiences without tracking users at the individual level.

Google’s sandbox plan is not only complicated and full of abbreviations, but it has also generated a lot of controversy.

Notably, competition authorities in Europe intervened in response to complaints from publishers and advertisers claiming that Google’s cookie-tracking plan would only bolster its bargaining power.

But after receiving some commitment from Google on how it will develop the sandbox (including the appointment of an oversight trustee), the UK CMA signed an agreement last month to move the project forward, paving the way for further development and a new batch. Now to continue. sandbox testing. (Although EU regulators continue to study the plan.)

Google said it will now also begin testing updated privacy sandbox settings and controls, which it says could allow users to “view and manage the interests associated with them, or disable tests entirely.”

The blog post provides an example image of some of the settings he will try – showing a layered menu structure with master switches to disable (or enable) top-level tests and, below, to personalize ads in a single browser-based menu where the user removes interests. assigned to it using thematic monitoring of its activity on the Internet, and edits the list of sites from which the system determines interests, as well as two other menus (one related to advertising measurement), and the other to prevent spam and fraud. ).

image credit: google

Notably, Chrome users in the EU (and some other regional markets) will not be included in the latest sandbox native tests – instead, they will only be able to participate if they actively choose to subscribe to Switch. According to the situation, according to Google. This is likely due to the legal protection of people’s privacy in the region under laws such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Testing of the now abandoned FLOC sandbox component also began last year outside of Europe.

A Google spokesperson told us, “During upcoming testing, Chrome plans to test a range of methods for notifying users of tests, depending on the region.” “In the European Economic Area, Switzerland and the UK, users will be asked to participate in the trials voluntarily through a subscription.”

“All users have strict controls and can opt out of the trial at any time,” the spokesperson said.

Whether or not Google’s sandboxing approach will actually protect privacy is an important question that remains to be answered.

There is also the broader question of whether targeting ads based on the perceived interests of individuals (by controlling their viewing locally) will not simply replicate the violent and discriminatory targeting that plays very well with today’s personal-tracking-based ad technologies. So exactly how many Google sandbox privacy fixes/resets remain to be seen.

In a general commentary on Google’s proposals, Dr. Lukasz Olejnik, an independent privacy researcher and consultant, builds his approach to designing “privacy protection” ads based on research from previous years. But he acknowledged that the task is difficult.

“This kind of research is forgotten now, but 10-7 years ago it was an exciting part of privacy research circles. Right now in this space there is no way to have scientific publications, as it seems that scientists have already figured out the problem. Years should be “torn off”, well, a little, no matter how ridiculous it may sound.

“But Google is not interested in the conference papers, they are actually building the infrastructure, and that’s the hard part because the web is a complex ecosystem. It’s also quite leaky, so the most important thing is to propose appropriate changes or additions to important parts of the web architecture to make it privacy-proof,” he told gaming-updates.

Oleinik also said that Google’s announcement of the testing highlights at least one great learning experience since the tech giant began its sandbox migration a few years ago.

“The announcement is also proof that Google learned the hard way how important user controls are from these types of tests, so it’s now clear what users will be in control from the start,” he suggested.

In a Google blog post, Goel concluded by writing that the sandbox proposals “have greatly benefited from the thoughtful feedback from early testers”, adding that: “We look forward to testing more of our proposals. we will continue.” Stay connected with regulators across the ecosystem and around the world.”

Developers can review Google’s sandbox API guidelines and information on how to participate in testing.

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