Google takes first steps in rolling out Android’s Privacy Sandbox

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BRAZIL - 2020/07/11: In this photo illustration a padlock appears next to the Android logo. Online data protection/breach concept. Internet privacy issues. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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At the start of the year, Google announced the Privacy Sandbox on Android project, a new system designed to eventually replace today's existing third-party cookie schemes and reinvent a more privacy-centered method for serving advertisements. After an initial round of alpha testing and feedback, Google announced on Thursday that the first developer's preview of the sandbox is now available as part of Android 13 beta 1.

The Privacy Sandbox is a multi-year development effort that will "limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID," Google wrote in a February announcement. "We’re also exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs." 

This preview provides developers with early looks at the sandbox's SDK Runtime and Topics API so that they can better understand how they'll fit into their apps and processes once it is officially released. We first saw Topics API back in January. It pulls data from the Chrome browser to identify the user's top five interests for the week, based on their search and browsing history. Those topics are then compared against a database of topics from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Google's own data. Partner publishers can then ping the Topics API, see what the user is currently into, and then serve the most appropriate ads without having to know every nitty-gritty detail about their potential customer.

Developers will also have access to an early version of the Fledge API. This allows sites to run "remarket" to existing users — ie, serving users ads to remind them that they left items in their shopping cart and should just check out already. The Sandbox comes with everything that developers will need to test it, including the Android SDK and 64-bit Android Emulator. The company intends to further refine the toolset over the coming months and welcomes feedback and questions from the developer community 

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