Google’s Privacy-Focused Ad Tracking Solution Is Now Available In Beta For Android Users

February 15, 2023
Google's Privacy-Focused Ad Tracking Solution Is Now Available In Beta For Android Users
Google's Privacy-Focused Ad Tracking Solution Is Now Available In Beta For Android Users

Google has begun handing out a test version of Privacy Sandbox for Android. The program is the company’s attempt to combine user privacy with targeted advertising, which it has been working on for years as part of its planned transition away from cookie-based online tracking.

The Topics API, which gathers a list of your top interests based on use, is one of Privacy Sandbox’s cornerstones. It then compares them to an Interactive Advertising Bureau database and Google’s statistics. Partner publishers can ping the API, which responds with a list of interests to assist in serving suitable advertising without disclosing excessively personal information. According to Google, saved interests are “kept for only three weeks, and old topics are deleted.” Moreover, data and processing are performed on-device “without the involvement of any external servers, including Google servers.”

This is the first time Privacy Sandbox has been made publicly available on Android. Google is continuing working on the Chrome Privacy Sandbox (here’s the timetable), which it has been testing with developers for over a year. It claims to have received feedback from hundreds of businesses, which has helped develop its strategy.

Google’s Privacy Sandbox is the company’s response to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which was introduced in iOS 14.5. The function requires the user’s permission to monitor them between applications and websites. Google calls ATT a “brutal approach” since it does not provide an alternative means for app developers and marketers to restore lost revenue from cookie-based targeting.

It’s an arms race between privacy and advertising. When systems like iOS prohibit the traditional methods of monetizing advertisements, advertisers may (and do) turn to fingerprinting: gathering apparently innocuous device data that, when stitched together, can identify you nearly as effectively as cookies. Regrettably, it is difficult to identify and avoid. Google thinks that Privacy Sandbox will achieve the appropriate balance between privacy and money from advertisers and developers.

According to Google, the Privacy Sandbox beta will be released gradually, beginning with “a small percentage of Android 13 devices” and steadily growing from there. If you are chosen, you will receive a notice on your device asking you to join the beta. After agreeing, you may check tracked subjects and opt out individually by visiting the new Privacy Sandbox area in your device’s Settings menu. Also, the menu allows you to exit the software.

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