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Google has launched a beta version of its Privacy Sandbox for Android, a new set of targeted advertising tools which aim to enable companies to make money on users’ data without ever seeing that data for themselves.

By Thomas Germain for Gizmodo

The goal of this is to limit user data sharing and not rely on cross-app identifiers. Google is hoping to keep on tracking its users, but the data it collects will stay on their device. The data will be analysed and used to assign users to various interest categories, such as ‘sports fan’ or ‘guy who likes blue shirts’, so companies can leverage these insights for targeted advertising without seeing the underlying data. This new method will be much better for users’ privacy, and companies will have a harder time learning about everything users do on apps and websites they don’t own.

The new beta test rolls out first to a “small percentage” of Android 13 devices and will expand over time. Companies will have to adjust to these changes, as the primary way companies have tracked users for the past 30 years, third-party cookies, will be killed. Privacy Sandbox on Android will keep data on a user’s device, reducing the amount of their information that is available for companies to see. However, other companies are still working on ways to track users, which will get around Google’s privacy moves.

Privacy Sandbox on Android is a significant and risky move for Google. The company is working hard to make these changes without giving itself a competitive advantage, which would enrage the anti-monopoly regulators who are already taking legal action against the company. Nevertheless, some experts see Privacy Sandbox as a positive move, stating that it is the right way to approach a tectonic platform privacy shift.

There are four main components of Privacy Sandbox on Android: SDK Runtime, Topics, FLEDGE on Android, and Attribution Reporting. SDK Runtime is a block of code that some other company makes, which allows it to be put into an app to perform certain functions. The Topics function is designed to assign user data to different interest groups. The FLEDGE function will determine how to auction advertising inventory for users, while the Attribution Reporting function will provide companies with information about how ads are working.

Overall, Privacy Sandbox on Android is a win for users as less information goes back to the mothership, and Privacy Sandbox is a significant improvement for users’ privacy. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that this isn’t going to shut off the flow of data entirely, as other companies are working on ways to track users that will get around the privacy moves Google has planned


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