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Aggregate Reporting API
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README.md

README.md

Aggregated Reporting API

This is a proposal for a new Web Platform API that allows for collapsing information across multiple sites into a single, privacy preserving report. This is made possible by a write-only per-origin data store that flushes data to a reporting endpoint after reaching aggregation thresholds across many clients. That is, data is only reported if it is sufficiently aggregated across browser users, using a server-side aggregation service.

Note: We are still working on ideas for how to make aggregate thresholding work. This is just a strawman proposal.

Motivation

This API, like the Conversion Measurement API, intends to provide a well-lit path for ads measurement without needing to use consistent cross-site identifiers like third party cookies. This allows ad measurement in a much more privacy preserving manner.

In this case, the API provides critical functionality to measure the reach of a particular ad campaign (how many distinct users saw the ad). This functionality is useful for other types of third party widgets as well.

Simple Sample Strawman Usage

The API is built around a Javascript layer similar to localStorage. It explicitly allows third party iframes to use this for third party storage.

Example: Reporting total ad views for a campaign

On every impression related to campaign-123:

// Add an entry to the storage with id “campaign-123” if it doesn’t
// already exist.

var entryHandle = window.writeOnlyReport.get(‘campaign-123’);

// Each entry supports simple string kv pairs. If the attribute is
// already present, it will be overridden. This can be used e.g.
// for demographic slices.
entryHandle.set(“country”, “usa”);

// Entry attributes support appends. If the attribute does not exist, is
// equivalent to |set|. This allows us to count in unary.
// Multiple visits will look like “11111..."
entryHandle.append(“visits”, “1”);

// Entries can be configured to report after a given time. After the
// time has passed, entries are queued for reporting, become immutable,
// and removed from the entry table. The UA will add additional
// randomized delay on reporting for privacy reasons (up to a e.g. day).
// After a report is configured for reporting it cannot be altered by
// subsequent calls to reportAfter.
entryHandle.reportAfter(2 * kMsecPerDay);

// Entries can optionally be set to expire without reporting if
// reportAfter is not called. All entries have a default expiry
// of seven days, with a max expiry of a month.
entryHandle.expireAfter(7 * kMsecPerDay);

This snippet will end up sending the following report, assuming the aggregation service has seen > T identical reports:

{
 ‘entryName’: ‘campaign-123’,
 ‘country’: ‘usa’,
 ‘visits’: ‘1’
}

Using this data on the server side, ad tech can find distributions of ad views across all their users, for a given reporting window.

Example: Reach measurement for an ad campaign

The reach of a campaign is the number of unique clients that saw impressions for it. This can easily be done with this API, via keying aggregated reports off of a campaign id.

On every impression related to campaign-123:

var entryHandle = window.writeOnlyReport.get(‘campaign-123’);

// Add any demographic slices you want or know in the current
// context.
entryHandle.set(‘country’, ‘usa’);

// Add a date field, so there’s no confusion with regard to
// reporting delays.
entryHandle.set(‘date’, new Date().toDateString());

// Every night, queue a report per user that saw the campaign at
// least once, with their demographic information, as long as
// there are enough identical reports.
entryHandle.reportAfter(msecFromNowUntilMidnight());

Example: Number of different domains a 3p widget is encountered on, per user

If you can recognize the same user over time on the same domain:

On every impression related to widget-123:

var entryHandle = window.writeOnlyReport.get(‘widget-123’);

// Filter out repeat views on this domain using first party state.
if (!haveSeenWidgetOnThisDomainSinceLastReport('widget-123’)) {
  entryHandle.append('distinct-domains', '1');
}

entryHandle.reportAfter(2 * kMsecPerDay);

If you cannot recognize the same user over time on the same domain:

Some browsers may limit read/write access to storage inside cross-domain iframes, making the filtering from the previous solution unavailable. Here is another technique.

var entryHandle = window.writeOnlyReport.get(‘widget-123-domains’);

// Record this domain

entryHandle.add('viewed-on-' + document.location.ancestorOrigins[0],
                “1”);

entryHandle.reportAfter(2 * kMsecPerDay);

Because of the thresholding requirement, this will only generate reports about sufficiently common sets of domains. If your widget is embedded in too many different domains for that to be useful, consider replacing each domain with e.g. hash(domain) % 100.

Advanced Example: Calibrating a frequency capping model

“Frequency capping” an ad campaign is a feature in which a given ad campaign can be shown to a particular person only a certain limited number of times in some time period. (Both advertisers and people who see ads are happier if they don't see the same ad too often as they browse the web.)

Typically this is done via third party cookies, to keep track of a views-per-ad count across publisher sites. However, when third-party state is unavailable or otherwise undesirable, this feature could be approximated by using per-publisher frequency caps, along with some global, aggregated data for calibration.

Suppose you wanted to model frequency caps as:

fcap_domainX = fcap_global *
  (typical #ads seen per user on domain X / 
   typical #ads seen overall, for users who visited domain X)

Then this API could provide the distribution you need for the denominator of that fraction, for every domain where (enough) users see the ad campaigns:

var thisDomain = document.location.ancestorOrigins[0];

var thisDomainMod = someHash(thisDomain) % 100;

for (let i = 0; i < 100; i++) {
  var entryHandle = window.writeOnlyReport.get(
    'report-for-domain-mod-' + i);

  entryHandle.append('ads-seen-on-all-domains', '1');

  entryHandle.expireAfter(msecUntilMidnight() + 5 * kMsecPerMinute);

  if (i == thisDomainMod) {
    entryHandle.set('this-domain-is-' + thisDomain, '1');
    entryHandle.append('ads-seen-on-this-domain-mod', '1');
    entryHandle.reportAfter(msecUntilMidnight());
  }
}

This will result in daily reports showing a site someone visited plus the total number of ads they saw across all sites. There will be some reports from users who visited multiple sites with the same hash-mod-100, which can be recognized by having multiple "this-domain-is-..." lines in the report; the number 100 can be changed if these collisions cause too many problems.

Reporting

At specific time intervals, the browser will queue all entries in storage for reporting. First, they need to be proven to be sufficiently aggregated and not privacy revealing. To achieve this, we can query an aggregation service to be sure that the entire report — both the payload object and the origin it is reporting to — is sufficiently common. For options on how to build such an aggregation service, see some of the ideas in aggregated conversion measurement. That service can gate whether or not the report is sufficiently aggregated across browser users.

Once the report is proven to be sufficiently aggregated / thresholded, we can forward it on to the origin, possibly to a .well-known address. Integration with the Reporting API would be a plus.

Restrictions for Performance and Privacy

Limit on number of pending reports

Pending reports take up storage on the client’s device, so there should be some limits on the total storage this API can use per origin.

Limit on number of reports per time period

Additionally, some restriction on the number of reports per time period seems reasonable, to put a limit on the rate of data about any user that can be learned.

Note that for a use case like reach measurement, the demand for this API is at least the number of ads seen per time period per origin, if every campaign wants to implement this kind of measurement.

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