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Test your outrage over Google’s new Topics advertising system

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Google sure has taken an awful lot of heat over its advertising practices lately.

But why, exactly? Today, I’d like to explore that. I’ve concocted a four-question quiz that’ll gauge your rage and help determine whether it’s aimed at the right source or perhaps misplaced. But first, we need to catch up on what exactly is happening right now and how we reached this point.

The whole recent Google advertising debacle started with the crumbling state of the digital cookie, y’see — the pressure for Google to move away from its age-old practice of using tiny (and rather tasty-sounding) tidbits of data provided by websites to see what sort of stuff you’re interested in and then show you ads that match those subjects.

The problem with web cookies, lack of chocolate aside, is that they can be rich with sensitive info, they linger for a long time, and they’re tough for any normal mammal to understand and control. So last year, Google came up with a new system to replace advertising-oriented cookies called FLoC.

FLoC, which stands for “Federated Learning of Cohorts” (though I’m pretty sure it really stands for Fury-generating Load of Confusion), was convoluted, complicated, and more or less instantly condemned. So now, Google’s got another idea for the future of online advertising — something it’s calling Topics.

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