Google gets its way, bakes a user-tracking ad platform directly into Chrome

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Rolling out a new tracking mechanism controlled by the largest advertising incumbent, planned to replace the (admittedly awful and invasive, but fairly easily user-controlled) current solution, in the browser they also control. In response to the other browser vendors giving users more control (and default-deny) on third party cookies, thus harming googles' cash cow advertising business. Hidden behind a misleading popup in an automatic upgrade. Definitely not shady. I am curious what subverting it will look like, since it's running on the local machine it should be easy enough to make it always return a blank list or a list of injection attack strings or something to fuck with advertisers.
Google's not looking as good as it used to.

Enlarge / Google's not looking as good as it used to. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Don't let Chrome's big redesign distract you from the fact that Chrome's invasive new ad platform, ridiculously branded the "Privacy Sandbox," is also getting a widespread rollout in Chrome today. If you haven't been following this, this feature will track the web pages you visit and generate a list of advertising topics that it will share with web pages whenever they ask, and it's built directly into the Chrome browser. It's been in the news previously as "FLoC" and then the "Topics API," and despite widespread opposition from just about every non-advertiser in the world, Google owns Chrome and is one of the world's biggest advertising companies, so this is being railroaded into the production builds.

Google seemingly knows this won't be popular. Unlike the glitzy front-page Google blog post that the redesign got, the big ad platform launch announcement is tucked away on the page. The blog post says the ad platform is hitting "general availability" today, meaning it has rolled out to most Chrome users. This has been a long time coming, with the APIs rolling out about a month ago and a million incremental steps in the beta and dev builds, but now the deed is finally done.

  • Chrome users will see this pop-up, telling them the ad platform has rolled out to them. [credit: Aurich Lawson ]

Users should see a pop-up when they start up Chrome soon, informing them that an "ad privacy" feature has been rolled out to them and enabled. The new pop-up has been hitting users all week. As you can see in the pop-up, all of Google's documentation about this feature feels like it was written on opposite day, with Google calling the browser-based advertising platform "a significant step on the path towards a fundamentally more private web."

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