Google begins global test of privacy sandbox ad targeting

Google just announced the next phase of its privacy sandbox trial, which focuses on ad relevance and measurement. The Google Sandbox refers to an evolving ad-targeting technology stack that Google proposes to use to replace tracking cookie-based targeted ads in the Chrome browser in the second half of 2023, which it believes will better protect users’ privacy, but still, Generate advertising revenue efficiently.

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In a blog post today, Chrome Privacy Sandbox product director Vinay Goel said that starting today, developers can begin testing the topic, FLEDGE, and attribution reporting APIs in Chrome Canary on a global scale. Once well underway in beta, Google will offer API testing in stable versions of Chrome to expand testing and involve more Chrome users.

Sandbox recommendations are made up of sections such as Topics, Google’s recommendations for interest-based ad targeting through browser-based user web activity tracking, and FLEDGE, Google’s recommendations for remarketing and custom audiences without individual-level user tracking. In addition to the complicated acronym, Google’s sandbox program has caused quite a bit of controversy.

Most notably, Europe’s antitrust regulators stepped in after complaints from publishers and advertisers, arguing that Google’s plan to eliminate tracking cookies would simply consolidate its market power. But after getting some promises from Google about how the sandbox would be developed, the UK CMA signed an agreement last month to keep the project going, paving the way for continued development and another batch of sandbox trials now taking place. Google said it will now also begin testing updated privacy sandbox settings and controls, which will allow users to see and manage interests relevant to them, or turn off experiments entirely.

Its blog post gives a sample diagram of some of the settings for the sandbox, it shows a multi-level menu structure, with the main switch that turns off (or on) experiments at the top level, and looking down, there’s a browser-based Ads personalized menu, users can remove topic-based monitoring of their browsing activity, edit the list of sites the system infers interest in. The other two menus are related to admeasurement and spam and fraud reduction.

It’s worth noting that Chrome browser users in the EU (and some other regional markets) will not be opted into the latest sandbox trials, but will only be able to participate if they actively opt-in by flipping the switch to the on position, According to Google. This may be due to the region’s laws protecting people’s privacy, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

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