Google’s Privacy Sandbox is coming to Android

Privacy requirements are fundamentally changing the marketing industry with the ad tech landscape the primary front for this change.

Apple has sounded the starting gun, and where it goes Google must follow.

The iPhone maker’s iOS restrictions have shattered mobile marketing orthodoxy with household names including Facebook and Snapchat among its victims, and now similar changes are coming to Android.

The Google-controlled operating system accounts for about 70% of all mobile phones in the world, with Google confirming that beta testing of its privacy sandbox on Android will begin early next year this week. Below are the key processes media practitioners need to know.


How will Google differ from Apple in changing access to its mobile advertising identifier (MAID)?

That’s the key question on everyone’s lips as Apple unveils its MAID, known as ‘ID for Advertisers’ or IDFA, hiding mobile advertising on iOS devices.

IDFAs mean that almost any party in ad-tech could benefit from advertising to — and tracking of — iPhone users. But since 2020, Apple has gone to hinder this with the concept of asking users specifically for their consent before they can be monetized.

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While Google is nearing the sunset of its MAID, known as Google AdID, (presumably) its decline is more gradual. Sources tell Digiday that Google has already entered into meetings with ad-tech companies about how it plans to develop audience targeting on Android devices, a stark contrast to Apple’s more unilateral approach.

Mike Brooks, COO of ad tech outfit Verve Group, demonstrated the contrast between Apple and Google’s approach, welcoming the latter’s more collaborative process. “They realize they need adoption to make this work,” he added.

The good news for the mobile ad industry is that Google has committed to preserving Google AdID for the “next two years at least” with the company recommending that media market players get in touch with their ad serving and measurement partners ahead of the beta . Testing will begin next year.

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Testing APIs

The registration process for those testing the new solutions, or APIs, will include the usual roll-call of names from the Privacy Sandbox and Google Chrome such as Themes, FLEDGE and Attribution Reporting.

One aspect unique to Android will be the SDK (software development kit) runtime – Google has already begun soliciting volunteers for a closed beta process – a means to further restrict how consent can be shared between media owners and partners, such as measurement providers .

Currently, Google’s policy effectively lets third-party SDK developers, such as in-app measurement companies, share the same permissions as their Android app publishers.

Such a policy lets third-party service developers better integrate their SDKs with code on their client’s Android app. From here, the host developer submits the packaged app for distribution via an app store. Although, under the latest proposals, each publishing partner submits their SDK and Google then combs through it and approves or rejects it accordingly.

“Beginning early next year, we plan to roll out the initial privacy sandbox beta on Android 13 mobile devices, so that developers can take the next steps to test these new solutions,” wrote Ryan Fitzgibbon, a product manager at Google, earlier this Week.

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For Ben Phillips, CEO and founder of the consultancy BLP101, the fact that Google was fined $392 million for tracking users’ location without their consent, underlines how seriously Google (and the rest of the industry) is taking the upcoming changes must take

“We are entering a whole new era of privacy policy enforcement. Many of the legal guidelines have been around for some time, there should be no surprises for DPO’s and CMO’s alike,” he said, pointing out how any results of the sandbox companies require the registration of the government authorities.

“However, little in the way of ‘Jeopardy’ has been attributed to operating outside the regulatory lines, until now.”


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