Last year, Apple added App Tracking Transparency to iOS, and the shift in the flow of data from mobile users was enough to upset even Facebook. Now Google, which relies on targeted advertising for its business model, is preparing its own multi-year tweak to mobile ad tracking and privacy.
Starting today, app developers can get their first look at the new system as the first developer preview of Privacy Sandbox rolls out on Android, following the path of similar testing in Google’s Chrome browser on the desktop.
This new plan should replace Android’s existing advertising ID, a user-resettable ID for any device, with a privacy sandbox of “new, more private advertising solutions.” Like Apple’s approach, it claims to limit data shared with third parties and disable app IDs, but we’re still not sure exactly what technology could be implemented. This developer preview works on top of the Android 13 Developer Beta, with images for Pixel phones from the Pixel 4 to the current Pixel 6 models.
Google’s pitch was that it can find a way to protect users’ privacy better than existing solutions, while still providing information for targeted ads that appear on websites like this one and many free apps. Critics, including competitors, privacy advocates and regulators, have suggested that the approaches harm privacy and may give Google an unfair advantage that harms competition. An antitrust case against Google by 15 state AGs last year targeted the Privacy Sandbox.
Developers testing it will get an early look at the Privacy Sandbox and Google’s cookie-replacement Topics API — and find out how they might work in practice.