Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox might help preserve user privacy

Google’s Android Privacy Sandbox might help preserve user privacy

Advertisements are everywhere. They’re in the streets, they’re in TV shows and movies, and they’re in our pockets on our smartphones. Google knows just how cagey some people can be when it comes to privacy, and the company has been making some efforts to help aid user privacy. Now though, Google has announced the Android Privacy Sandbox, a multi-year initiative to introduce more private advertising solutions to end-users.

The Android Privacy Sandbox builds on a similar concept that the company unveiled for the web, in the form of “Topics” as a replacement for third-party cookie tracking. As Google put it, the objective is to preserve user privacy by default while still supporting the mobile ecosystem that relies on effective advertising to sustain free and advertisement-funded applications. It’s a unique-to-Android approach with a new SDK that’s isolated from the rest of the app’s code, though won’t be replacing Ad ID just yet.

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

Google says that Ad ID will be staying around for at least two years, and developers will be given a lot of notice before it’s phased out entirely. We were also told by Google that a developer preview would be released focusing just 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. Once 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 that Q1 of 2022 involves the initial design proposals and design feedback and iterations. Developer previews will come later on in the year, with a beta at the end of the year. Finally, 2023 will see scaled testing commence. 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 exactly the benefit of using this SDK will be for developers in the short term, at least until Ad ID is phased out. If you’re a developer that wants to read the design proposal, you can check out the Android Privacy Sandbox website for more information.

About author

Adam Conway
Adam Conway

I'm the senior technical editor at XDA-Developers. I have a BSc in Computer Science from University College Dublin, and I'm a lover of smartphones, cybersecurity, and Counter-Strike. You can contact me at [email protected] My Twitter is @AdamConwayIE and my Instagram is adamc.99.

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