Last year, Google announced that it will be killing Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), an initiative under its Privacy Sandbox. The system allowed Google to share individual data with advertisers in a privacy-friendly manner but had received backlash from multiple companies including Microsoft.
At the same time, Google announced Topics API, an alternative to FLoC. Topics API will identify your interests and store them locally on your system, and share them with the advertisers when you visit a website.
The Topics API enables interest-based advertising (IBA) without tracking the sites a user visits. The browser observes and records topics that appear to be of interest to the user, based on their browsing activity. This information is recorded on the user's device.
Now, Google has started rolling out Topics API which is expected to replace third-party cookies. The feature was a part of Google's version 115 release and is slowing making its way to everyone. If you are not comfortable sharing your interests with third-parties then you can turn off the feature by following the steps below:
- Open Google Chrome and click on the three dots on the top-right corner of the browser
- Navigate to Settings > Privacy and Security > Ad privacy. Here you will see three options, Ad topics, Site-suggested ads and Ad measurement
- Click on each of them and turn off the toggle on the top. You can also decide to block certain topics which you don't want to shared with third-party advertisers
Unfortunately, this is not a perfect way to make yourself anonymous when browsing online as websites could have their own tracking mechanisms like tracking pixels, cookies and more. That being said, turning off Topics API is a start and if you are concerned about your presence online then you can switch to a privacy-focused browser like Brave or DuckDuckGo.