*This post was written by Amber Usmani, Associate Director Programmatic Display at Tinuiti

Google developed the Privacy Sandbox in response to rising concerns over privacy and data collection. In the following post, we dive into what the Google Privacy Sandbox is and how it will impact advertisers in the near future.

What is Google Privacy Sandbox?

The mission of Privacy Sandbox is to curtail the use of opaque tracking of users’ browsing behavior while promoting an ad-supported web ecosystem that is respectful of users and private by default. This week, Google shared progress on their developments within the Privacy Sandbox.

Introducing TURTLEDOVE

Two Uncorrelated Requests Then Locally-Executed Decision on Victory, also known as TURTLEDOVE is a bird-themed proposal by Google as part of their Privacy Sandbox efforts. FLEDGE (First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups) is an early prototype of the TURTLEDOVE family to introduce a viable first-party alternative to third-party cookies that proves successful for both advertisers and publishers on the Chrome browser.

As part of recent simulation testing conducted by Google, they cite that their FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts, another bird-themed acronym) audiences have the ability to drive around 95% of the conversions per dollar spent when compared with Google’s cookie-based (In-Market and Affinity audiences) advertising.

However, they caution that results depend on the strength of the clustering algorithm that FLoC uses and the type of audience being reached. When Google’s Privacy Sandbox tech for interest-based advertising was introduced last year, they presented the idea that groups of people with common interests could replace individual identifiers.

What is a FLoC?

A FLoC is a short name that is shared by thousands of individuals based on their similar interests and derived by the browser from the user’s browsing history. The browser updates the cohort over time as its users browse the web. The cohort is made available to websites via a new JavaScript API which populates the interest-based cohorts either from the URLs of the visited pages, content of those pages or other factors. With this approach the individual is essentially hidden while web history is kept private on the browser. This approach allows the cohort to feed into the algorithm, while being kept local on the browser and not elsewhere, giving only the browser the ability to share the cohort.

The Impact of Google’s Privacy Sandbox on Advertisers

In the midst of all the testing and tech advancements by Google, there is also work being done to help buyers decide how much to bid for ads seen by these audiences. Google is encouraging ad exchanges, demand-side platforms, and advertisers to begin experimenting with the technology in the Privacy Sandbox and providing feedback from these tests.

However, there are still many unknowns and things to consider: 

  • Measurement: What metrics will advertisers be able to see when it comes to measurement and attribution? Privacy requirements are limiting bits of conversion data that some of Google’s proposed APIs can send at a time. 
  • Fraud Protection: After a tumultuous 2020, advertisers are more cautious on fraud and ad verification. Google proposed an API last year called Trust Token in which cryptographic tokens are issued to authentic users within the browser. This allows the browser to evaluate the user’s authenticity in other contexts. Identifying real users from bots will still be an ongoing challenge and Chrome’s proposed Trust Token API still is in the early stages. The effectiveness of this API is something we will need to wait to learn more about. 
  • Anti-Fingerprinting: The entire purpose of the Privacy Sandbox is to protect users from hidden techniques or loopholes that track them or share their data. Currently, IP addresses are used to help identify users and assist in cross-device tracking and measurement. Chrome recently published a new proposal, Gnatcatcher, for how someone’s IP address might be masked to protect privacy, however this proposal is still in development stages and comes with privacy-protection questions.

 

Next steps for Advertisers

Chrome intends to make FLoC-based cohorts available for public testing through origin trials with its next release in March and later testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2.

Advertisers should consider testing FLoC when it becomes more readily available later this year in order to have early learnings on how effective these new audiences will be compared to current audiences. Tinuiti continues to stay ahead of these developments to provide guidance to all clients on the next steps and course of action. We will continue to share updates as they become available.

More on doing your own simulation and doing your own experiments with the technology can be found here and here

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