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Chrome now directly tracks users, and generates a “topic” list it shares with advertisers
And this is simply ridiculous. Topics, a part of Chrome Privacy Sandbox, is something we have long known as a deceitful attempt by Google to appear to be privacy-oriented while introducing new means of spying on their users.
In short: Topics is among Google’s attempts to replace the third-party cookie as a means of identifying people online by striking a balance between preserving people’s privacy and preserving companies’ abilities to buy and sell targeted ads.
From the moment they started developing it, we have voiced our concerns about this — whether it was Floc or Topics, and have sought to fully disable it in Vivaldi. We never had any faith in the Topics API from the very start.
Read our blog when Topics was announced.
Google’s Topics disabled in Vivaldi.
Google’s Topics API will not be enabled in Vivaldi, and it cannot work in Vivaldi. It would need two things to make it work, and we have disabled both of them.
- It would need a setting enabled for it to collect local profiles about you. We disable the setting by default, and we forcibly do it in a way that means that changes to Chromium cannot remotely enable it. We do not provide any settings UI to allow you to change it, and we will soon remove the new Chromium settings section for it. (Technically, you could enable it by editing your settings or installing an extension that manipulates it. However, all that would do is enable local data collection. It will not be used because of #2)
- Before exposing the Topics API information to websites, Chromium checks if the setting is enabled or disabled. We forcibly make it always return “disabled”, even if it is enabled. So that even if you somehow manage to bypass #1 and enable local profile collection, it will not expose it to Google or other websites.
Do you really want to be tracked?
Did you ever imagine a browser that has user-tracking and ad platforms baked in? That’s Google Chrome for you. Google says it will block third-party cookies in the second half of 2024 — presumably after it makes sure the “Privacy Sandbox” will allow it to keep its profits.
We believe that having tracking and profiling baked into a browser is fundamentally wrong. Even if it can be disabled, and even if it is disabled by default but allows you to enable it on demand. Users should not be exposed to this sort of privacy invasion, and the browser should be protecting you from it.
The world’s largest tech companies generate most of their revenues from advertising, and when that advertising is driven by your data and interactions with their services, the balance is very wrong.
But at the same time, there are companies out there that have genuinely good intentions as well. As we’ve said before, what happens next is up to all of us — all of you. It all depends on what choices we make.
Our mission is to stay true to our users and respect their privacy, and we shall continue to do so.
Thank you, Topics. You have made our relationship with our users stronger.
Input from Yngve Pettersen and Julien Picalausa