Chrome’s “Enhanced Ad Privacy”: What you need to know

Users of Google’s Chrome web browser may wish to dig into their privacy settings as a new feature regarding advertising privacy slowly rolls out to the masses.

Google’s “Enhanced Ad Privacy” feature may soon appear in your browser, tied to choices regarding a new Chrome feature named Topics. This is one of several potential replacements for the increasingly outdated concept of third-party tracking cookies. However, there is a catch. Only a “small percentage” of Chrome users have so far seen the Ad Privacy popup, so it may not be something you experience yourself for some time to come. When it does arrive, however, you’ll need to know exactly what’s on offer with regard to the options provided.

It’s no secret that most major browsers are getting rid of third-party tracking cookies. Users don’t want a random collection of cookies on their systems contributing to a build up of shadowy profiles trailing them around the web.

Chrome has previously had to delay plans to sunset these kinds of cookies in the browser. Throughout this, there was an understanding that none of these products would scrap advertising entirely. It’s one of the main sources of revenue for any would-be internet giant.

In this case, Google has been coming up with several potential replacements. The primary driver for possible ad revenue is likely to be Topics. This is intended to replace the old way of doing things, enabling interest-based advertising minus the site visit tracking. The intention is for websites to ask Chrome what the user likes through the Topics JavaScript API, and then serve relevant ads with no cookie involvement.

Chrome selects these potential topics of interest by studying the user’s browser history. Essentially, if you visit a lot of sports websites then a site you’re on which queries the Topics API can be reasonably expected to come away with “sports” as one of your Topics. At this point, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of sports based adverts in your immediate browsing future.

This is where the Enhanced Ad Privacy feature comes into play. With the advent of Chrome 115, certain users have been seeing popups regarding these changes with regard to privacy settings. It makes sense to give users control over this functionality, and so the popup says the following:

We’re launching new privacy features that give you more choice over the ads you see. Chrome notes topics of interest based on your recent browsing history. Also, sites you visit can determine what you like. Later, sites can ask for this information to show you personalised ads. You can choose which topics and sites are used to show you ads.

To measure the performance of an ad, limited types of data are shared between sites such as the time of day an ad was shown to you.

If you want to opt-out of this new functionality, The Register reports that you need to click into settings and take appropriate steps to disable it. Some online circles are not enthused due to the “Got it” confirmation button at the bottom of the popup. This is because “Got it” may suggest that a new privacy feature has launched and has immediately disabled or reduced something, not signed you up to it.

In other words, if you do not want any part of the Topics API system, you need to click the settings link when faced with the popup and set about turning it all off. Compare and contrast with other versions of this popup, which say “No Thanks” and “Turn it on” instead of “Got it” and “Settings”.

Clearly this isn’t ideal, though as The Register notes, legal requirements in different regions mean some folks will experience an opt-in system and others will be opted-out. It’s entirely possible a lot of people out there may end up with it switched on when they want it off, and vice-versa. You can visit chrome://setings/adPrivacy in your Chrome browser to see if you have this enabled, along with several other relevant settings including topics you’ve blocked and links to cookie, and site-suggested ads settings.

Users of Malwarebytes Browser Guard are protected from sites reading your Google Topics.

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