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Why Google Topics Ad Test post-cookies may encounter obstacles

Google is moving forward with testing targeting Topics ads to Chrome web browsers, as part of its post-cookie advertising plan. In the latest update, Google revealed details about how the system will work, including a sample of how it will collect data about consumers’ interests online.

On Thursday, Google announced it would begin trials of the Topics API, a software platform that publishers and ad tech providers will connect to to help target ads when people visit their sites through the Chrome browser. Google said the new ad targeting tests will be open to a few select participants, but did not name the companies. Google has worked with publishers and ad technology companies to develop the next-generation advertising platform as it seeks to deprecate third-party cookies in Chrome and other data-tracking technologies on Android devices.

Google is trying to determine whether online publishers and ad technology partners can still effectively target ads even after Google drops third-party cookie support as planned next year. Cookies are online tracers that websites place on users’ web browsers when they visit sites; without these tags, it is more difficult to deliver targeted advertisements based on the interests of Internet users and it is more difficult to track the effectiveness of advertisements. Google also announced that it was testing the “attribution report” without cookies.

Google has revealed some details about how ad testing works: Chrome users will be able to disable testing through their “settings”. In Europe, consumers must register to activate the tests.

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Participants “will be able to view and manage the interests associated with them, or opt out of trials altogether,” said Vinay Goel, Google product manager, Privacy Sandbox, Chrome, in a blog post Thursday.

The blog post showed how consumers will see interest collected by Chrome. “Your browsing history affects the ads you see and estimated interests,” Google’s notification on Chrome’s “Settings” page reads. Interests include broad categories like automotive and vehicles, books and literature, comics and animation, food and grocery delivery, rock music, and team sports. Google will also list the sites a person has visited that contributed to the collection of those interests.

Mathieu Roche, co-founder and CEO of ID5, the digital advertising ID services company, said the need to register through Chrome could be a barrier to adoption. “The premise that users will opt-in to data collection in their browser is likely to be a blocker,” Roche said in an email. “People have a relationship of trust with the content and service provider they access through their browser, not the browser itself. It’s one of the most flawed concepts at the heart of the Privacy Sandbox, and we need to push it back to protect and support publishers and the service they provide.