Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Android Privacy Sandbox

Anthony Chavez:

Today, we’re announcing a multi-year initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android, with the goal of introducing new, more private advertising solutions. Specifically, these solutions will limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID. We’re also exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs.

The Privacy Sandbox on Android builds on our existing efforts on the web, providing a clear path forward to improve user privacy without putting access to free content and services at risk.

​​We realize that other platforms have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers. We believe that — without first providing a privacy-preserving alternative path — such approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses.

Sami Fathi:

Unlike Apple’s ATT, which requires all apps to ask for user consent before tracking them across other apps and websites, however, Google’s Privacy Sandbox will limit app ability as default while also looking for new privacy-preserving ways to enable mobile advertising.


Google’s approach is striking a different tone, with Snapchat, who had previously said ATT presented a “risk” to its business, saying in a statement that it is “excited to collaborate with Google to develop new privacy-preserving standards for Android.” Google said it would receive input across the industry as it builds Privacy Sandbox over the next two years.


Update (2022-03-09): John Gruber:

Two years puts them around three years behind iOS, which implemented App Tracking Transparency (ATT) last year. Or maybe that’s just three years until Android jumps ahead of iOS on privacy guards against surveillance advertising, since ATT is the “blunt”, “ineffective” approach Google is attributing to “other platforms”.

Ron Amadeo (via John Gruber):

That bit about being a sandbox for “compatible SDKs” is the big catch for the SDK Runtime and the Android Privacy Sandbox. It’s optional. Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox, even if it is a watered-down privacy solution, is at least starting with the progress of blocking third-party cookies. The existing tracking methods in Chrome will be blocked, and Google is offering an alternative solution that will have some (again, watered-down) privacy benefits. Google has not announced plans to block or limit any existing tracking techniques on Android. Android apps have a lot more privileges than a website, and developers could choose to ignore this and include an ad SDK that does not use the SDK sandbox.

Nick Heer:

I am finding it hard not to read the details as an overcomplicated way to meet in the middle without clear benefits. Google’s market dominating advertising business means regulators will surely raise concerns if any Android ad tech companies are affected by more meaningful changes, so Google must take a more cautious approach. But that means the result will likely be ineffective for privacy.

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