Privacy Sandbox
FormationAugust 2019; 3 years ago (2019-08)
FounderGoogle
TypeInitiative
PurposeDevelopment of web standards
Websiteprivacysandbox.com

The Privacy Sandbox is an initiative led by Google to create web standards for websites to access user information without compromising privacy.[1] Its core purpose is to facilitate online advertising without the use of third-party cookies.[2]: 39  The initiative includes Federated Learning of Cohorts as well as other proposed technologies,[3] many of which have bird-themed names.[4] It was announced in August 2019.[5][6]

The initiative has been described as anti-competitive and has generated an antitrust response.

Privacy Sandbox will also be available on Android.[7][8]

Model

Proposals in the Privacy Sandbox are based on advertising through cohorts rather than to individuals. They generally place the web browser in control of the user's privacy, moving some of the data collection and processing that facilitates advertising onto the user's device itself.[2]: 41  There are three focuses within the Privacy Sandbox initiative: replacing the functionality of cross-site tracking, removing third-party cookies, and mitigating the risk of device fingerprinting.[2]: 45 

Proposals

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In January 2020, Google invited advertising technology companies to join the Improving Web Advertising Business Group (IWABG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) as a way to participate in the proposal process for the Privacy Sandbox. The IWABG is chaired by Wendy Seltzer.[9] The W3C is a consensus-building organization and would not prevent Google from deploying technology without consensus.[10]

Each proposal within the Privacy Sandbox initiative would perform one of the functions of targeted advertising that is currently done through cookies.[11]

Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC)/Topics API

Main article: Federated Learning of Cohorts

The Federated Learning of Cohorts algorithm analyzes users' online activity within the browser, and generates a "cohort ID" using the SimHash algorithm[12] to group a given user with other users who access similar content.[13]: 9  Unlike other Privacy Sandbox proposals which replace existing functions of cookies, FLoC proposes a new mechanism for targeted advertising.[14] The FLoC proposal has been criticized by privacy advocates, data ethics researchers, and others.[15] All major browsers based on Chromium pledged to remove FLoC. Google ended development of FLoC and proposed Topics API as a replacement.[16] Topics API, which transfers information about user interests from one site to another, has been criticized by web publishers for enabling user tracking often at the detriment to publishers with unique content.[17]

Proposals for serving advertisements

TURTLEDOVE

TURTLEDOVE, which stands for "Two Uncorrelated Requests, Then Locally-Executed Decision On Victory",[2]: 45  is a framework proposed by Google to serve ads through the browser.[2]: 49 

SPARROW

SPARROW, which stands for "Secure Private Advertising, Remotely Run On Webserver",[2]: 45  is a proposal made by advertising company Criteo in response to Google's TURTLEDOVE. It would place a third party in control of parts of the ad service process, so that the browser company would not have as much control.[2]: 51 

Dovekey

Dovekey is a proposal made by Google in response to both SPARROW and TURTLEDOVE. It places the final part of the ad service process in the browser, but uses a third party server for key-value association.[2]: 52 

PARRROT

PARRROT, which stands for "Publisher Auction Responsibility Retention Revision of Turtledove",[18] is a proposal by advertising company Magnite in response to TURTLEDOVE. It places ad publishers in control of the ad service process through code embedded in their websites.[2]: 53 

Fledge

Fledge, which stands for "First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment", is a proposal that would allow ad-tech companies to serve ads within the Google Chrome browser from their own servers. As of April 2021, Google plans to trial the technology in late 2021.[19]

Proposals for analytics

PeLICAn

PeLICAn, which stands for "Private Learning and Interference for Causal Attribution", is a proposal introduced by Neustar in early December 2020. It was intended to raise awareness of the need for web analytics tools within the Privacy Sandbox.[20]

Antitrust concerns

In January 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom announced plans to investigate the Privacy Sandbox initiative, with a focus on its potential impacts on both publishers and users.[21] The initial investigation was slated to continue until July 2021.[22][needs update] In a statement, CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said that "Google’s Privacy Sandbox proposals will potentially have a very significant impact on publishers like newspapers and the digital advertising market," and that there were also "privacy concerns to consider."[23]

In March 2021, 15 attorneys general of U.S. states and Puerto Rico amended an antitrust complaint filed the previous December; the updated complaint says that Google Chrome's phase-out of third-party cookies in 2022[24] will "disable the primary cookie-tracking technology almost all non-Google publishers currently use to track users and target ads. Then [...] Chrome, will offer [...] new and alternative tracking mechanisms [...] dubbed Privacy Sandbox. Overall, the changes are anticompetitive".[25][26] The lawsuit suggests that the proposed changes in the Privacy Sandbox would effectively require advertisers to use Google as a middleman in order to advertise.[24]

References

  1. ^ Lardinois, Frederic (August 22, 2019). "Google proposes new privacy and anti-fingerprinting controls for the web". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2021-05-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Geradin, Damien; Katsifis, Dimitrios; Karanikioti, Theano (2020-11-25). "Google as a de facto Privacy Regulator: Analyzing Chrome's Removal of Third-party Cookies from an Antitrust Perspective". Tilburg Law and Economics Center. Rochester, NY (DP2020-038). doi:10.2139/ssrn.3738107. ISSN 1572-4042. S2CID 234583355. SSRN 3738107.
  3. ^ Nield, David (May 9, 2021). "What's Google FLoC? And How Does It Affect Your Privacy?". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  4. ^ Bohn, Dieter (2021-03-30). "Privacy and ads in Chrome are about to become FLoCing complicated". The Verge. Retrieved 2021-05-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ Goodin, Dan (2020-01-15). "Google plans to drop Chrome support for tracking cookies by 2022". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2021-05-19.
  6. ^ Cyphers, Bennett (2019-08-30). "Don't Play in Google's Privacy Sandbox". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Introducing the Privacy Sandbox on Android". Google. 2022-02-16. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  8. ^ Vonau, Manuel (2022-11-15). "Google's third-party cookie killer is almost ready for beta testing on Android". Android Police. Retrieved 2022-11-15.
  9. ^ Schiff, Allison (2021-04-26). "An Inside Look At The W3C With Strategy Lead Wendy Seltzer, As Debate Swirls Around The Privacy Sandbox". AdExchanger. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Schiff, Allison (2021-04-14). "Influential W3C Working Group Calls Privacy Sandbox Proposal 'Harmful'". AdExchanger. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Cyphers, Bennett (2021-03-03). "Google's FLoC Is a Terrible Idea". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Cyphers, Bennett (2021-03-03). "Google's FLoC Is a Terrible Idea". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2021-04-13.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Geradin, Damien; Katsifis, Dimitrios (2020-02-19). "Taking a Dive Into Google's Chrome Cookie Ban". Tilburg Law and Economics Center. Rochester, NY (DP2020-042). doi:10.2139/ssrn.3541170. ISSN 1572-4042. S2CID 216269022. SSRN 3541170.
  14. ^ O'Reilly, Lara (2020-10-22). "'Very pleasantly surprised' Google shares results of Privacy Sandbox experiments". Digiday. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Kaye, Kate (2021-04-05). "Google's cookieless ad targeting proposal under fire for discriminatory potential". Digiday. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. ^ Roth, Emma (2022-01-25). "Google abandons FLoC, introduces Topics API to replace tracking cookies". The Verge. Retrieved 2022-02-10.
  17. ^ Layser, Stephanie (2022-03-30). "'Seller-Defined Audience Is Better Than Google Topics. Here's Why'". AdExchanger. Retrieved 2022-10-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Shields, Ronan; Blustein, Andrew (October 7, 2020). "How Ad Tech Might Work in a Post-Cookie World". Adweek. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Shields, Ronan (April 14, 2021). "Google Shelves Fledge Trials Until Late 2021". Adweek. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ Schiff, Allison (2020-12-11). "Meet PeLICAn, Neustar's Measurement Proposal For The Privacy Sandbox". AdExchanger. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ Ikeda, Scott (2021-01-20). "UK CMA Plans to Investigate Google Chrome's 'Privacy Sandbox' for Potential Anticompetitive Behavior". CPO Magazine. Retrieved 2021-05-19.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ "Investigation into Google's 'Privacy Sandbox' browser changes". Competition and Markets Authority. January 8, 2021. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ Shields, Ronan (January 13, 2021). "Google's Dilemma: Tension Between Privacy and Competition". Adweek. Retrieved 2021-05-21.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ a b Robertson, Adi (2021-03-16). "Google antitrust suit takes aim at Chrome's Privacy Sandbox". The Verge. Retrieved 2021-04-13.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Holt, K (December 16, 2020). "Texas announces a multi-state antitrust suit against Google". Engadget. Retrieved 2021-04-13.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  26. ^ Masnick, Mike. "Google's Efforts To Be Better About Your Privacy, Now Attacked As An Antitrust Violation". Techdirt. Retrieved 2021-04-13.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)