Google’s privacy sandbox is coming to Android

Privacy requirements are fundamentally altering the marketing industry, and the ad-tech landscape is at the forefront of this change.

Apple sounded the go-ahead gun, and wherever Google goes it must follow.

The iPhone maker’s iOS restrictions have shattered the mobile marketing orthodoxy with household names like Facebook and Snapchat among its victims, and now similar changes are taking place on Android.

The Google-controlled operating system accounts for about 70% of all mobile phones in the world and Google confirmed that beta testing of its Privacy Sandbox will begin on Android early next year this week. Below are the key processes that media professionals should be aware of.


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

That’s the key question on everyone’s lips as Apple’s depletion of its MAID, known as ID for Advertisers, or IDFA, has hampered mobile advertising on iOS devices.

IDFA meant that almost every party in ad tech could benefit from advertising and tracking iPhone users. But since 2020, Apple has been getting in the way of this with the concept of specifically asking users for their consent before being able to monetize them.

While Google is following suit with the extinction of its MAID, known as the Google AdID, (unsurprisingly) its decline will be more gradual. Sources tell Digiday that Google has already promoted meetings with ad-tech companies about how it plans to evolve audience targeting on Android devices, a stark contrast to Apple’s more one-sided approach.

Mike Brooks, COO of the Verve Group ad technology team, noted the contrast between Apple’s and Google’s approaches, praising the latter’s more collaborative process. “They realize they need adoption to make this work,” he added.

The good news for the mobile advertising industry is that Google has committed to preserving the Google Ad ID for the ‘the next two years at least‘ with the company recommending that majors in the media commerce sector contact their ad serving and measurement partners before beta testing begins next year.

Test API

the Registration process for those looking to try out the new solutions, or APIs, they will include the usual list of Privacy Sandbox names in Google Chrome, such as Topics, FLEDGE Y Attribution reports.

A unique aspect of Android will be the Runtime SDK (Software Development Kit): Google has already started asking for volunteers for a closed beta test: a means to further restrict how consent can be shared between media owners and partners such as measurement providers.

Google’s policy currently allows third-party SDK developers, such as in-app measurement companies, to share the same permissions as Android app publishers.

This policy allows third-party service developers to better integrate their SDKs with their client’s Android application code. From here, the host developer submits the packaged app for distribution through an app store. Although, according to the latest proposals, each publisher partner submits their SDK and Google then analyzes it and approves or rejects it as appropriate.

“Early next year, we plan to roll out the initial beta version of Privacy Sandbox to mobile devices running Android 13, so that developers can take the next steps to test these new solutions.” wrote Ryan Fitzgibbon, a product manager at Google, earlier this week.

For Ben Phillips, CEO and founder of consultancy BLP101, the fact that Google has been fined $392 million for tracking users’ locations without their consent underscores how seriously Google (and the rest of the industry) will have to take the next changes.

“We are entering a whole new era in Privacy Policy enforcement. Many of the legal guidelines have been around for a while, there should be no surprise to DPOs and CMOs alike,” she said, noting how the results of the sandbox trials will require approval by government authoritys.

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

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