Press Release

Google back to the drawing board on Topics?

Criteo’s first look at Google’s Topics API (analysis here) suggests that yet another Privacy Sandbox proposal is not an adequate replacement for third-party cookies.

Criteo found that the current interest-based advertising engagement solutions are five times more relevant than the interest-based attributes generated by Google’s Topics. The comparative results are clear when you set the Topics classifier side-by-side with Criteo’s classifier. For instance, Amazon’s gaming section would be categorized by Criteo as “Video Gaming Console Games”; Topics would categorize this domain as Shopping, as it would Ebay’s Home & Garden section and John Lewis’s electronics section.

The impact that this technology would have on publishers would be substantial: Criteo estimates that “around 51 percent of publisher revenue is generated by audiences that are not reproducible with today’s version of Topics”.

There is also a clear competition issue with Google’s Topics API. Google has never stated it would rely on any of the Privacy Sandbox proposals to monetize its owned and operated inventory. The “first-party” corporate ownership exemption built into the design of nearly all Privacy Sandbox proposals means that their effectiveness does not impact Google. Google’s ability to link personal data across people’s different devices using their consumer sign-in means they would continue to offer marketers more accurate cross-device frequency capping and attribution solutions than rival publishers.

Google’s current proposals patently reduce competition, meanwhile the dubious positive impact on user privacy is entirely undone by their own independent policies of compelling the user to transfer extensive data rights at sign-in. As it stands, Privacy Sandbox works against the measures regulators should be taking to protect consumers and competition.

Header image courtesy of Public Domain Pictures (licensed for free under the Public Domain Pictures free license).