Google Chrome gets ‘Privacy Sandbox’: Here’s how to access the feature that obfuscates individual user data but still serves relevant ads

Google Privacy Sandbox
Google moving ahead with Privacy Sandbox to protect user data. Pic credit: Pexels/Pixabay

Google has officially released its privacy-focused, ‘Privacy Sandbox’. Although still available as a trial in select regions, users and websites can still benefit from the same.

Google has begun enabling Privacy Sandbox in Chrome Canary, the beta (and generally unstable) version of the Chromium-based web browser. The program attempts to obfuscate individual user data or browsing history but still serves targeted advertising.

Google thinking beyond Cookies with methods such as Federated Learning:

After introducing the Privacy Sandbox initiative about two years ago, Google has updated the Chrome web browser’s Canary version with an option to opt for the same. The search giant has always updated the log and added more details for the initiative.

Google mentioned the Privacy Sandbox initiative that phases out third-party cookies in August 2019. The platform attempts to safeguard individuals, and more specifically, their data.

Advertisers have traditionally relied on Cookies to gain information about users and their behavior on the internet. Although Cookies reside on the users’ computers, advertisers gained ample information to serve targeted advertisements.

With Privacy Sandbox, advertisers will not get information about individuals. Instead, Google will deliberately obfuscate user data. Instead of per-user data, the search giant will serve clusters of information on groups of individuals with “similar interests”.

Google recently offered some more details about its new tracking alternative to third-party cookies. The company claims its “Federated Learning of Cohorts” (FLoC) is a privacy-first technology that could put an end to the mass-trading of an individual’s internet browsing data.

Google claims with FLoC, advertisers can expect to see at least 95 percent of the conversions per dollar spent on ads when compared to cookie-based advertising. FLoC is essentially an API (Application Programming Interface) that could replace Cookies.

How to access Privacy Sandbox in Chrome Canary:

Google Chrome users who wish to benefit from Privacy Sandbox, need to install the Canary version of the web browser. It is important to note that this version isn’t labeled as ‘Stable’, and it can have bugs or other stability issues.

After installing Chrome Canary, head to Menu (three dots/ vertical ellipsis) > Settings > Privacy and Security > Privacy sandbox. Alternatively, enter this command in the address bar: chrome://settings/privacySandbox.

The setting is essentially a link that takes Google Chrome Canary users to a webpage. The page offers information about privacy-preserving techniques and alternatives to cross-site tracking sites can use for their services and content when Privacy Sandbox trials enabled. Here are the highlights:

  • Advertisers can learn thousands of users share a similar interest -like a crowd at a concert – and select ads for the crowd, rather than a person,
  • advertisers can study the effectiveness of ads in a way that does not track you across sites.

Needless to mention, Cookies still exist and will take some more time to retire. Moreover, Google’s Privacy Sandbox feature is still in development. Despite Google’s best efforts, the feature could take several weeks or months for mainstream deployment.

Quite a few Ad Tech companies aren’t happy with Google’s initiatives. In fact, the search giant’s recent announcement could ruffle some more feathers. Google just announced that it will halt the practice of selling ads that are based on a person’s individual browsing across websites.

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