Google launches first Android beta with updated ad tracking system

Around this time last year, Google announced that it was working on a multi-year project to enhance privacy and rework ad tracking on Android phones, putting the mobile platform in line with Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature for iOS. Google claims the first beta for Privacy Sandbox on Android will begin rolling out to a small number of Android 13 devices tomorrow, allowing users and developers to test the new technology in the real world. This follows the release of an early developer preview in April of last year. The beta will become more accessible “over time,” and owners of devices chosen to take part will be notified of their eligibility by an Android notification.

A suite of tools called the Privacy Sandbox on Android aims to establish a new benchmark for how advertisers and websites can access consumer data without jeopardising user privacy. To analyse user behaviour and create a customised advertising profile that app developers may utilise, Android devices are currently given a distinct “Android Advertising ID” that users can reset. Google believes that by replacing this advertising ID with privacy-preserving APIs, the Privacy Sandbox will reduce the amount of user data shared with outside parties, eliminate cross-app identifiers, and support targeted ads.

Anthony Chavez, Google’s vice president of Privacy Sandbox, said, “The Privacy Sandbox beta offers new APIs designed with privacy at the core and don’t employ identifiers that can track your behaviour across apps and websites.” These APIs “may be used by apps that choose to join in the beta to show you appropriate adverts and measure their efficacy.”

The Google Privacy Sandbox for Web project seeks to start phased-out third-party cookies in Chrome by 2024, and the Privacy Sandbox on Android have certain similarities. While using different technologies and being developed independently, Google claims that the two projects have a “similar vision of strengthening user privacy while enabling critical business functions.”

By visiting the Privacy Sandbox area of settings, users chosen to take part in the beta can control which of their interests can be targeted by advertisements. For example, suppose you see advertisements for camping equipment and sleeping bags. In that case, Android may have deduced from the app usage and downloaded apps that you would be interested in the “Outdoors” topic, which you can see displayed in this view. Users can always opt out of or back into beta participation and block topics they don’t want to be targeted for.

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