Around this time last year, Google revealed it was working on a multiyear initiative to improve privacy and remodel ad tracking on Android phones, bringing the mobile platform in line with Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature for iOS. Following the release of an early developer preview last April, Google says the first beta for Privacy Sandbox on Android will start rolling out tomorrow to a limited number of Android 13 devices, allowing users and developers to test the new technology in the real world. Access to the beta will expand “over time,” and devices selected to participate will receive an Android notification informing users of their eligibility.
The Privacy Sandbox on Android is a set of tools that aim to create a new standard for how advertisers and websites access information about consumers without compromising user privacy. Android devices are currently assigned a unique user-resettable “Android Advertising ID,” which is used to track user behavior and build a personal advertising profile that can be used by app developers. The Privacy Sandbox aims to replace this advertising ID with privacy-preserving APIs, which Google claims will limit user data being shared with third parties and remove cross-app identifiers, while still supporting personalized ads.
Privacy Sandbox on Android is distinct from Google’s Privacy Sandbox for web, though the two projects share a similar goal
“The Privacy Sandbox beta provides new APIs that are designed with privacy at the core, and don’t use identifiers that can track your activity across apps and websites,” said Anthony Chavez, Google’s vice president of Privacy Sandbox. “Apps that choose to participate in the beta can use these APIs to show you relevant ads and measure their effectiveness.”
The Privacy Sandbox on Android shares some similarities with Google’s Privacy Sandbox for web project, which aims to begin phasing out third-party cookies in Chrome by 2024. Google says that the two projects share a “common vision of enhancing user privacy while supporting key business capabilities” but use distinct technologies and will be developed independently.
Users selected to participate in the beta can manage which of their personal interests ads can target by going to the Privacy Sandbox section of settings. For example, if you’re seeing ads for camping gear and sleeping bags, then Android may have presumed from your downloaded apps and app activity that you’d be interested in the “Outdoors” topic, which you’ll be able to see listed in this view. Users can block topics they don’t want to be targeted for and opt out or back into beta participation at any time.