Google is rolling out the beta version of Privacy Sandbox for Android, which marks the end of targeted advertising on Android devices

Google is rolling out the beta version of Privacy Sandbox for Android, which marks the end of targeted advertising on Android devices

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Google has begun rolling out a beta version of its Privacy Sandbox for Android, marking the beginning of the end of targeted advertising on Android devices. The Privacy Sandbox is Google’s attempt to reconcile users’ privacy with targeted advertising, a challenge that the search giant has been working on for several years in an effort to distance itself from cookie-based tracking.

One of the key aspects of the Privacy Sandbox is the Topics API, which collects a user’s interests based on their habits. The system then compares this to a database from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Google data. Partner publishers can query this API to get a list of a user’s interests and use this information to display more relevant ads, without sharing intrusive data. Google notes that these interests are only stored for three weeks and that old topics are removed. Additionally, data and processing are done on the device “without any communication with external servers, including those of Google”.

This beta marks the first time the Privacy Sandbox is publicly available on Android. Google is still working on the version for Chrome, which developers have been able to test for about a year. The company says it has received feedback from hundreds of companies, which has helped shape the product.

The Privacy Sandbox is Google’s response to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT), introduced in iOS 14.5. The feature requires user consent to track them across apps and websites. Google has called ATT a “blunt approach” because it doesn’t offer developers and advertisers an alternative to replace lost revenue from cookie-based targeting.

The battle between privacy and advertising has been raging for a long time, and when platforms like iOS prevent traditional methods of generating advertising revenue, advertisers turn to fingerprinting, a practice of collecting seemingly innocuous information that can be pieced together to identify users almost as well as cookies. Unfortunately, this practice is very difficult to detect and prevent. Google hopes that its Privacy Sandbox will offer the right balance between privacy and advertising revenue for advertisers and developers.

Google notes that the beta of its Privacy Sandbox will be rolled out gradually, starting with a “small percentage of devices on Android 13”. Users will receive a notification on their device inviting them to join the beta if they are eligible.

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