Android launches another way to spy on users with the beta of “Privacy Sandbox”

Apple exploded the ad market in 2020 when it followed up on a subscription feature in iOS. Since then, Google, the world’s largest advertiser, has been slow to roll out its solution for Android and Chrome. The idea Google came up with is called “Privacy Sandbox,” which sounds like a good thing, but it’s a new tracking system for Android and Chrome. Once it’s up and running, only then does Google say it will start blocking existing tracking methods, like third-party cookies.

The latest progress report from the company says that Privacy Sandbox is coming to Android, in beta. Google says: “The Privacy Sandbox for Android Beta will be rolled out gradually, starting with a small percentage of devices running Android 13, and will expand over time. If your device is selected for the Beta version, you will receive a notification from Android letting you know. “

Privacy Sandbox, on Chrome and Android, tracks users by interest groups rather than individually, which Google says is a privacy enhancement. Android will soon create an advertising profile of you, and the user interface will allow you to block “interests” for which you don’t want to see ads. There’s a kill switch and a list of apps that connect to the new tracking system, presumably anything that uses a new version of the Google Ads API.

Android privacy sandbox controls.
Enlarge / Android privacy sandbox controls.


Another user tracking system on Android isn’t much of a change in the grand scheme of things because there are already advertising and targeting APIs in Google’s operating system. Adding the Privacy Sandbox tracking system to Chrome is a much bigger change, as it’s the first time an ad system has been integrated directly into Google’s browser. Google also wants to stop ad blockers in Chrome sometime this year. Google makes about 80 percent of its revenue from advertising, so forcing ads into your browser and operating system is one of the few things the company does that will hurt your results.

The “Privacy Sandbox” in Chrome makes at least one roundabout argument for improving privacy, as Google claims it will one day block third-party tracking cookies in Chrome once the system is rolled out. On Android, Privacy Sandbox tracking is besides to all the usual methods of individual monitoring; it is not presented as an alternative to anything. The Privacy Sandbox on Android is toothless, and Google has no plans to reduce tracking on Android. The company said last year: “We plan to support existing ad platform features for at least two years, and we intend to provide substantial notice before any future changes.” So even in the best of cases, Google has no plans to respond to iOS 2020 tracking reduction until at least 2024.

Tech – Ars Technica

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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