Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox Could Help Maintain User Privacy

Ads are everywhere. They’re on the streets, they’re in TV shows and movies, and they’re in our pockets on our smartphones. Google knows how suspicious some people can be when it comes to privacy, and the company has made efforts to help protect user privacy. Now, however, Google has announced the Android Privacy Sandbox, a multi-year initiative to bring more private advertising solutions to end users.

The Android Privacy Sandbox builds on a similar concept the company unveiled for the web, in the form of “Topics” as a replacement for third-party cookie tracking. As Google said, the goal is to preserve user privacy by default while supporting the mobile ecosystem that relies on effective advertising to support free and ad-supported apps. It’s a unique approach to Android with a new SDK that’s isolated from the rest of the app’s code, but won’t replace the Ad ID yet.

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The core propositions that define the Android Privacy Sandbox are a commitment to show only relevant content and ads, to measure digital ads, and to limit secret tracking. The company intends to use Topics and FLEDGE (First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment) for relevant content. FLEDGE displays advertisements based on “custom audiences” defined by app developers and previous interactions within their app, and all information is stored locally.

Google says Ad ID will remain in place for at least two years, and developers will be given significant notice before it’s completely removed. We have also been informed by Google that a developer preview will be released focusing on fair on Android Privacy Sandbox. For these previews, developers will have access to an SDK with Privacy Sandbox APIs and system images that include the required modules. When ready for launch, key components, including the SDK Runtime and Privacy Preserving APIs, will be distributed as modular system components, which you may remember as Project Mainline.

Google’s timeline is for the first quarter of 2022 to involve initial design proposals and design feedback and iterations. Developer previews will arrive later in the year, with a beta at the end of the year. Finally, 2023 will see the start of large-scale testing. These previews and betas will be independent of the Android 13 release cadence. There will also be user-facing controls in the settings app, once rolled out.

It’s unclear what the benefit of using this SDK will be for developers in the near term, at least until Ad ID is removed. If you’re a developer who wants to read the design proposal, you can check the Android Privacy Sandbox website for more information.

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