Vivaldi says no to Google Topics in its browser
Google's euphemistically named Privacy Sandbox or Ad Privacy feature is a topic of hot debate. While it is true that it is changing tracking on the Internet fundamentally by getting rid of third-party cookies, it still relies on the profiling of users, is said to give Google even more control over the advertising market, and is the first time that an advertising solution that includes tracking is integrated natively in a web browser.
Google is pushing the new advertising features into Chrome Stable slowly but steadily. Since the company is also in control of Chromium, the open source root of Google Chrome, it is also integrating these changes into that browser. This integration puts other companies and individuals who use Chromium as the source for their browsers in a precarious situation.
Several, including Brave Software, have announced already that they would disable these features in their browsers. Most cite user privacy as the main concern and to an extent also control of advertising on the Internet.
Vivaldi Technologies published a new article on the official blog yesterday in which it revealed that it won't enable Google Topics in the browser. Google Topics is one component of Google's Privacy Sandbox; it moves the tracking from the user level, which is mostly powered by cookies and site data currently, to the group level.
Instead of tracking individual users, their activity and creating profiles using the collected information, Google Topics will still analyze the activity and assign the individual user to groups. The analysis happens locally, according to Google. A user who visits lots of cats or dogs websites may be put into the Animal group. Sites and advertisers may use the information to display advertisement to the user that matches these interests.
Vivaldi Technologies explains that it "never had any faith in the Topics API from the very start", calling Topics a "deceitful attempt by Google to appear to be privacy-oriented while introducing new means of spying on their users". Integrating tracking and profiling into a browser is "fundamentally wrong", according to Vivaldi, which is why it will always oppose it.
The company confirms that the Topics API will never be enabled in the Vivaldi web browser. Two "things" would be needed to enable Topics in Vivaldi, and both of these have been disabled by Vivaldi engineers.
Not all browser makers have expressed their concerns as publicly as Vivaldi. Google plans to disable third-party cookies support in the second half of 2024, after several delays. and it is then that all Chromium-based browsers will either allow these in their browsers or disable them.
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