Google's Privacy Sandbox initiative won’t save you from web tracking

Google office
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Sundry Photography)

True to its word, Google has officially launched a beta of its “Privacy Sandbox”, a growing set of disparate initiatives designed to anonymise data tracking without wholly preventing it.

Per the landing page for the release (via Gizmodo), the core tenets of Privacy Sandbox include eliminating the sharing of cookie data between websites, and processing data on-device but away from apps and external servers, restricting their access to that data.

The company is implementing limits on fingerprinting (the creation of data designed to identify a user) and the access spurious advertising platforms have to data belonging to an individual. However, it’s important to note Google’s Privacy Sandbox is not looking to revolutionize or even antagonize the online advertising industry. 

Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Yes, users will still be tracked under the Privacy Sandbox, because Google intends to establish a system to use patterns within an individual's data to create a vague profile of their personality. 

This would mark someone out, for example, as a ‘’sports fan" or "bingewatcher", to advertisers, without sharing specific identifying data with them, so they can still be served with targeted ads.

This cybersecurity concept, generally known as differential privacy, is certainly better than ad and social media platforms creating dossiers on users whether they consent to that or not, and it’s good that such a system is being brought to a mainstream tech platform. 

But if the idea of personal data being leveraged in any way sounds disconcerting, consider looking into free privacy tools, like browser extensions that stamp out ads and trackers such as uBlock Origin and Decentraleyes.

However, there are some things Google is trying to achieve with the Privacy Sandbox, which is still in active development, that make it a project worth keeping an eye on.

For instance, apps on Chromebooks or Android phones could run faster because of changes to the way data is processed on those devices, and Google seems committed to preventing “covert tracking”, so that if users are being tracked, they know about it.

Luke Hughes
Staff Writer

 Luke Hughes holds the role of Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro, producing news, features and deals content across topics ranging from computing to cloud services, cybersecurity, data privacy and business software.