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Google’s Privacy Sandbox is coming to Android 13 starting in 2023

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Android 13 review: Privacy, Security and Interface updates

Google’s Privacy Sandbox system will be rolling out on a limited number of Android 13 devices starting in early 2023. The announcement comes after the search giant announced updates to its Privacy Sandbox commitments in November last year, following up with another announcement for Privacy Sandbox for Android earlier this year in February. 

The new Privacy Sandbox for Android is a set of technologies that will replace cross-app identifiers and hidden tracking with new APIs like Attribution Reporting, Topics and FLEDGE. Google has also announced a beta program for ad tech and app developers to test the ads-related APIs as part of their solutions. 

Topics especially is an important API to look out for, considering that it’ll be replacing FLoC. Instead of using traditional third-party cookies, your browser will learn about your interests as you browse the internet using the last three weeks of your browsing history. The number of topics is currently restricted to 300, which will be expanded in the future. The topics are also selected on-device, meaning no external servers are involved. 

Topics will replace FLoC and will get rid of cookies. | Source: Google

Upon visiting a participating site, Topics will pick three topics from each of the past three weeks of recorded browser history and share them with the site and its corresponding advertising partners. Additionally, Chrome will have user controls that will let users see the topics chosen, remove the ones they don’t like or disable the feature altogether. 

Other APIs like FLEDGE and Attribution Reporting also promise data anonymisation in the targeted ad space by replacing advertising IDs and isolating third-party advertising codes.  

Google's Privacy Sandbox is coming to Android 13 starting in 2023
The FLEDGE API’s workflow. | Source: Google

Organisations looking to test the Beta on their own Android 13 devices can request access for a limited number of devices in addition to registering any apps that will utilise said APIs. The SDK runtime, however, will be run as a closed beta for developers to test Runtime-enabled SDK distribution to select apps. 

Google further added that this beta is expected to have a smaller number of participants who can dedicate resources to support this testing because of the coordination required to test the SDK runtime on production devices.  

That said, Google’s new proposals have received some flak from privacy focussed companies like DuckDuckGo, claiming that these proposals are merely a change in name and basically track users indirectly. Brave seems to think that the new Privacy Sandbox trades off user choice for a rather small privacy improvement while simultaneously centralising Google. 

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: yadullahabidi@pm.me.

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