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Google Expands Privacy Sandbox into the Mobile App Ecosystem

2 MINUTE READ | February 23, 2022

Google Expands Privacy Sandbox into the Mobile App Ecosystem

Google recently announced a multi-year initiative to improve user privacy on Android devices and overhaul cross-app tracking by phasing out Google Advertising IDs (Ad ID), Google’s device identifier, and developing the Privacy Sandbox on Android, an expansion of the company’s ongoing efforts to develop internet privacy standards across the digital economy. The news comes shortly after Google reached an agreement with the UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Market Authority (CMA) on the scope of the Google Chrome Privacy Sandbox, with the Android Privacy Sandbox focused on developing privacy-first advertising solutions specifically for the mobile app ecosystem. 

Similar to when Google announced the Chrome Privacy Sandbox, the company published an initial set of design proposals for the Android Privacy Sandbox, encouraging developers to weigh in and share feedback. These proposals include FLEDGE for Android, Core Attribution API, and the Topics API, to name a few. Google plans to release developer previews in the coming months, with a beta release projected before the end of the year. While technical differences between browser and mobile operating systems exist, Google notes that the core use cases and design approach will be aligned across solutions that emerge from the Chrome Privacy Sandbox and the Android Privacy Sandbox. However, one proposal that’s unique to mobile apps is SDK Runtime, which involves a “new, safer way for apps to integrate with third-party advertising software development kits (SDKs),” according to AdExchanger

With the Android Privacy Sandbox, Google aims to support some of the most prominent advertising use cases, including targeting, retargeting, attribution, and measurement, by developing solutions that: 

  • Limit user data-sharing with third parties.

  • Operate without cross-app identifiers, including Google’s Advertising ID.

  • Reduce the potential for covert data collection.

  • Provide a safer way for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs and improve attribution reporting.

In the announcement, Google took aim at the “blunt approaches” being taken by competitors, such as Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT), claiming that “without first providing a privacy-preserving alternative path—such [blunt] approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses.” Many tech partners have been outspoken about the mechanics of ATT, including Meta, which reported earlier this month that Apple’s privacy changes will impact ad sales by nearly $10 billion this year. In contrast, Google emphasized the importance of industry collaboration, confirming that its public commitments, which affirm that Google won't give preferential treatment to Google’s ads products or websites, for the Chrome Privacy Sandbox, will be applied to the Android Privacy Sandbox as well. Duolingo and Snap are among those mentioned in the announcement, saying the respective companies are “excited to collaborate with Google” and are appreciative of “the deliberate push to publish new proposals and solicit feedback” from the mobile app ecosystem. 

“[It’s] encouraging to see this long-term, collaborative approach to privacy-protective personalized advertising from Google. We look forward to continued work with them and the industry on privacy-enhancing tech through industry groups,” said Graham Mudd, vice president of product marketing of ads and business at Facebook, about the Android Privacy Sandbox. 

Google plans to support existing ad platform features, including Ad ID, for at least two years as it builds the Android Privacy Sandbox, and provide substantial notice ahead of any future developments to allow other companies to implement their own changes. Responses to the news have been positive, especially in comparison to the pushback against Apple’s privacy changes, as noted by The Verge

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“From what we’ve seen, solutions coming out of the Android Privacy Sandbox will likely be less disruptive to the digital ecosystem than other privacy changes, in large part because Google is engaging industry partners in the process of developing alternative solutions,” said Laurie Miller, Head of Analytics and Data Science at PMG. “As developer previews and beta tests become available in the coming months, PMG will be working closely with Google to weigh in on product development, identify testing opportunities, and ensure our clients are prepared for the next iteration of privacy-first advertising solutions.”


Posted by Abby Long