Google releases first Android Privacy Sandbox preview, based on Chrome’s Topics API

Google releases first Android Privacy Sandbox preview, based on Chrome’s Topics API

Google has been experimenting with new targeted advertising methods in the Chrome browser, intended to replace the cross-site browser cookies that have powered online advertising (and privacy violations) for decades. The company’s latest attempt is the Topics API, which was introduced in January, and now Google is starting to expand it beyond the browser.

Google released the first Android Privacy Sandbox Developer Preview on Thursday, which is comprised of two components. The first is a new SDK Runtime, which is intended for developers to use without granting the same permissions level as the host application — Google says this could be used for more types of SDKs and development libraries in the future, but for the moment, it’s limited to advertising. The second component of Privacy Sandbox is the Topics API, which sounds similar to the Topics API going into Google Chrome. Essentially, instead of sending usage data to an external server for advertisement targeting, the system picks out Topics you might be interested in and allows ads to target based on those.

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Google says the new Preview can be used to try out the Topics API and retrieve test values, as well as run some sample applications. Unlike the usual Android Betas and Developer Previews, there’s not anything exciting here for non-developers — everyone else is better off with the regular Android 13 Beta.

The Privacy Sandbox Developer Preview is based on the Android 13 Beta. It’s available as an option in the Android Emulator, as well as system images for the Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a (5G), Pixel 5, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4a. You’ll have to download and flash the build manually to try it on a Pixel phone, as Google only intends for developers to try it out.

It’s a bit surprising to see the Topics API arrive on Android before it’s fully rolled out in Chrome — testing in the web browser only started in April. Google’s original Chrome Privacy Sandbox proposal from 2019 was criticized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), DuckDuckGo, and other groups for its privacy problems. Even though there hasn’t been the same level of complaints towards the newer Topics API proposal, it still boils down to the same idea: targeted advertising algorithms running on your device.

Source: Android Developers

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer. Check out what he's up to at corbin.io.

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