Google: ‘Introducing the Privacy Sandbox on Android’

Anthony Chavez, VP of product for Android at Google:

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. [...]

​​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. [...] While we design, build and test these new solutions, we plan to support existing ads platform features for at least two years, and we intend to provide substantial notice ahead of any future changes.

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”. (I get it that big companies like Google and Apple will often go out of their way not to name each other in disparaging contexts, and that in general this practice comes across as couth and respectful, but in this case it’s almost comically obvious not just that they’re talking about Apple, but that they can only be talking about Apple. There are no other players in this space.)

There’s also an implication here that Apple didn’t give the companies who’d be affected by ATT sufficient notice before instituting the changes. And we all know who the primary “company” is: Facebook. I’d say Apple bent over backwards to give Facebook time, and how Facebook reacted is instructional.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022