Google Announces Its Own Take on App Tracking Transparency for Android

Google Announces Its Own Take on App Tracking Transparency for Android

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Google is following in Apple’s footsteps and implementing Privacy Sandbox in Android, focusing on developer-friendliness that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy lacked. The search giant wants to work with app developers to figure out how to avoid a user-facing blanket permission dialog box that infuriated Apple app developers.

For context, Apple introduced App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 early last year. The privacy-centric feature gave users the option to allow or disallow apps from tracking their Identity For Advertiser (IDFA) tags. When you choose “don’t track,” apps and advertisers cannot work together to track your browsing activity to serve you targeted advertisements. The change drew flak from several large platforms that rely on ad revenue for monetization. Facebook published full-page newspaper advertisements arguing that the change would affect small businesses. Apple’s changes led to a 15-20 percent revenue drop for advertisers.

Google hopes to steer clear of the flak from advertisers when it transplants Privacy Sandbox from Chrome to Android. On the browser, this feature creates web standards for websites. The standards dictate how webpages access sensitive user data and deploy online advertising without third-party cookies. In a blog post, Google’s Product Management VP Anthony Chavez explains that Privacy Sandbox would be a multi-year initiative on Android. He opines that Google will take a different approach that would keep developers’ and users’ best interests at heart.

“​​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.

Our goal with the Privacy Sandbox on Android is to develop effective and privacy-enhancing advertising solutions, where users know their information is protected, and developers and businesses have the tools to succeed on mobile.”

The company is currently sifting through “initial design proposals” and seeking feedback from app developers. We should witness a few developer preview builds during this year before the feature enters the beta testing phase towards the end of the year. The release cycle for Privacy Sandbox will be independent of Android 13. Google hopes that the APIs offered would let developers track user activity while respecting their privacy and leaving campaign performance metrics undisturbed.

Lastly, Google mentions that it will support the existing ad platforms for at least the next two years. This suggests the company will eventually phase it out and mandate a transition to the developing APIs. An enforcement system for third-party advertisers could also be in the works.

Google mentions that several big brands such as Snap Inc. and Activision Blizzard are supportive of Privacy Sandbox on Android. Do you think the company’s cautious approach and consideration for developer feedback in the development stages would save it from backlash when the feature rolls out publicly? Tell us in the comments.

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