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Google Chrome Continues to Push Ahead With Browsing History-Based Targeted Ads

Krishi Chowdhary Journalist Author expertise
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Google Continues to Push With Browsing History-Based Ads

Since the release of Google Chrome 115 in July, many users have been getting a popup regarding new privacy features. It’s a part of Chrome’s Enhanced Ad Privacy, which enables websites to use your browsing history to target you with advertisements based on your online activities and interests unless you turn it off.

The new Enhanced Ad Privacy settings are already turned on by default – the popup is just meant to inform users that they have been opted in. However, the popup mentions that you can make changes to them in Chrome settings, with a link to the settings page.

The Introduction of Google’s Topics API Regime

The Topics API is a new API released with Chrome 115 in July built to help advertisers target Chrome users with personalized ads without compromising the latter’s privacy.

The new Javascript API is a part of the Privacy Sandbox, Google’s replacement for third-party cookies.

Google is rolling out the Topics API regime slowly but steadily, with a small percentage of users pulled into it at a time.

It eliminates the need for cookies by allowing websites to directly ask Chrome for the necessary information. Chrome picks topics of interest from a user’s browser history and shares them with the websites, allowing them to display relevant adverts.

Considering the growing discontent among people about Google mining their browser data to drive ad revenues, it’s safe to say that an increasing number of users are being opted in.

Users may turn off the new tracking options entirely or choose to disable specific topics and websites from being used to display personalized ads.

Some users complained about being opted in for the Topics API automatically, calling it a dark/deceptive pattern. The popup might make users feel that they are accepting or enabling “enhanced” privacy from ads, though in reality, the API is already enabled, they pointed out.

Google Faces Growing Pushback for Its New Privacy Settings

Despite the tech giant offering repeated reassurances that the new API doesn’t allow advertisers to identify the users whose interests are used to help target the ads, Google faces increasing pushback.

I don’t want my browser keeping track of my browsing history to help serve me ads, and I definitely don’t want my browser sharing any function of my browsing history with every random website I visit.Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at John Hopkins University

Software vulnerability analyst, Will Dormann, noted that the “Enhanced Ad Privacy” text on top and the placement of the “Got it” button page might cause users to hit the button, assuming that they are enhancing their online privacy.

The fact that the “Got it” button is more highlighted than the settings option doesn’t help either. However, it actually does “the exact opposite of what the title text describes”, i.e., it leaves all the targeting options enabled, Dormann added.

In regions with stricter privacy laws, such as the EU, the settings aren’t enabled by default.

Instead, users are offered an option to “Turn it on”, as well as a “No Thanks” button — both of them of the same color. Users who have accidentally turned on the tracking features or accepted already enabled settings may turn it off in the Chrome settings menu.

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Krishi Chowdhary Journalist

Krishi Chowdhary Journalist

Krishi is an eager Tech Journalist and content writer for both B2B and B2C, with a focus on making the process of purchasing software easier for businesses and enhancing their online presence and SEO.

Krishi has a special skill set in writing about technology news, creating educational content on customer relationship management (CRM) software, and recommending project management tools that can help small businesses increase their revenue.

Alongside his writing and blogging work, Krishi's other hobbies include studying the financial markets and cricket.

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