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Microsoft prefers their PARAKEET to Google's FLoC

Google's FLoC user profiling proposal receives a lot of opposition, largely from privacy advocates. Unlike Apple, Microsoft doesn't stake its reputation on maximizing user privacy, and when asked if they would support Google's FLoC proposal, they gave Verge the following statement:

We believe in a future where the web can offer people privacy, transparency and control while supporting responsible business models to create a vibrant, open and diverse ecosystem. Like Google, we support solutions that give users clear consent and don't circumvent consumer choice. This is also why we do not support solutions that exploit the identity signals of unauthorized users, such as fingerprinting. The industry is traveling and there will be browser-based proposals that do not require individual user IDs and ID-based proposals based on consent and first party relationships. We will continue to explore these approaches with the community. Recently, for example, we had the pleasure of presenting a possible approach, as described in our PARAKEET proposal. This proposal is not the final iteration but is a living document.

Mostly, like Google, Microsoft seems to be committed to replacing third-party cookies with something, but of course they prefer their own proposition, which begs the question - what exactly is PARAKEET.

PARAKEET (Private and Anonymous Requests for Ads that Maintain Efficiency and Improve Transparency) is Microsoft's differential privacy proposition.

It uses a proxy server which sits between the user and the advertising company. Users would have a unique identifier known only to the proxy server.

When a web page requests an ad, the request is routed through the trusted proxy server. There, a small amount of statistical noise is added to each result to mask the user's actual private data.

This noise includes:

  • Anonymize the publisher who requests an advertisement
  • Anonymize the geography from which the user requests content
  • Anonymize the IP address from which the user requests content
  • User agent string anonymization used to match content to their web device's capabilities
  • Add noise or other random information in different requests of the same web client
  • Reduce the granularity of audience interests
  • Add an encoded vector of recent browsing activity, they call Representations

The noise is large enough to protect an individual's privacy, but small enough that it does not have a significant impact on the accuracy of the answers extracted by analysts and researchers.

Then the amount of information revealed from each query is calculated and deducted from an overall privacy loss budget, which will stop further queries which, in total, may reveal the user's actual private data. This proxy redirection allows Parakeet to control the information that recipient marketers or the publisher's domain receives as users browse the web.

The information is then transmitted to ad networks which return an ad to the user. If a user clicks on the ad information is routed again through the trusted proxy server. This proxy redirection allows Parakeet to control the information that recipient marketers or the publisher's domain receives as users browse the web.

This proxy service would also allow the Parakeet access control service to provide aggregate reports to ad networks and if marketers send their conversion data to the proxy service, they could also provide attribution reports.

Microsoft plans to charge for running these trusted proxy servers. It's important to note that PARAKEET would not require any processing on the device, and Microsoft claims that using a proxy server isn't too different from what ad networks already use to satisfy ads.

Ultimately, Microsoft plans to implement any proposal that becomes the industry standard, which will be disappointing for those hoping for a viable alternative to Google Chrome when it comes to privacy.

Source: Prebid

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