Google to limit tracking in Android apps, starting next year

Google IO 2021
(Image credit: Google)

Google has announced that it will be putting its Privacy Sandbox into Beta stage across Android 13 systems from early 2023, which will include limits to apps' abilities to track user data for advertising purposes.

The sandbox seeks to preserve user data available to advertisers, whilst concurrently respecting individual privacy. Perhaps Google is finally taking a leaf out of Apple’s book and taking note of consumer demand for it.

Having been in development since February this year, Google has been working with app developers and marketing specialists on the Privacy Sandbox and is now ready to begin implementation.

New APIs 

DuckDuckGo's App Tracking Protection

(Image credit: DuckDuckGo)

As is common with Android software updates, the Sandbox will be available to a select few devices at first, before rolling out to the wider Android market. 

App developers will be able to gain access to preview builds to test out and provide feedback on the latest features. A closed Beta for the SDK runtime will also be available, which will exclude apps from using code related to advertising, so no marketing data for will be available to apps.

Currently, Android apps use covert tracking methods. With the new Privacy Sandbox, however, various APIs will replace these.

The Attribution Reporting API, for instance, eradicates cross-party user identifiers., by employing obfuscation techniques and limiting the amount of data available for reports.

Another is the Topics API, which allows personalized interest-based ads to function without tracking multiple apps used by individuals. 

There is also the Fledge API, which limits the sharing of identifiers and app usage information when advertisers attempt to remarket to those who have shown a potential interest in their products, such as when they leave an item in their checkout basket. 

These APIs are set to replace advertising IDs, which uniquely identify individual users and have long been a staple of Android devices. 

The Privacy Sandbox has already been met with some backlash, though. Two privacy-focused internet companies, DuckDuckGo and Brave, have their reservations about Google’s plans. 

The former believes that these new APIs will still track user data, just indirectly, and the latter thinks the plans will actually “harm Web privacy, and further cement Google’s control over the Web.” 

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Lewis Maddison
Staff Writer

Lewis Maddison is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro. His area of expertise is online security and protection, which includes tools and software such as password managers. 

His coverage also focuses on the usage habits of technology in both personal and professional settings - particularly its relation to social and cultural issues - and revels in uncovering stories that might not otherwise see the light of day.

He has a BA in Philosophy from the University of London, with a year spent studying abroad in the sunny climes of Malta.