Google is testing ways to allow Android apps to track you, but not really

The Privacy Sandbox beta is a tool that enables businesses to monetize your data without directly accessing it, which Google says is considerably better for safeguarding user privacy.

The spotlight is currently on the alterations being implemented to Google Chrome, where they pledge to eliminate third-party cookies, which have been the primary method utilized by companies (including Google) to trace your online activity for the past three decades.

The new beta test rolls out first to a “small percentage” of Android 13 devices and will expand over time. You’ll get a notification if you’re selected, with the option to opt-in or out. The beta will also be available to a selected number of app developers to test.

How the Privacy Sandbox works. At present, anyone can easily access your data, but with the advent of Privacy Sandbox for Android, this scenario could change, to some extent. Your phone’s operating system will continue to track your activities; however, the data it gathers will remain stored on your device. Neither Google nor anyone else will receive a copy of this data. Instead, your phone will examine the collected data and categorize you into different interest groups, such as “sports enthusiasts,” “individuals who prefer blue shirts,” or “journalists at Gizmodo who produce monotonous articles about data.”

Businesses can employ those insights for their preferred advertising strategies but without access to the underlying data. In simpler terms, you may still become a subject of targeted advertising, but with lesser exposure of your personal information. This benefits users as companies will find it more challenging to gather comprehensive details about your activities on non-affiliated apps and websites.

Don’t celebrate just yet. Privacy Sandbox still entails data gathering, and it is crucial to acknowledge that it will not entirely halt the inflow of data. Numerous other companies are developing diverse means to track your online activities, which can circumvent the privacy measures that Google intends to implement.

Don’t forget about FLEDGE. Through FLEDGE, your phone will scrutinize the apps you use, and then notify advertisers of the kind of apps you prefer, without revealing your identity or the specific app names. Topics operate in a comparable way, except that your apps can label you with distinct attributes themselves. For instance, they may indicate that “this is the person who adores shopping apps for sneakers.” Consequently, the app developers can target you with related sneaker products in the future. Google is also using the Topics and FLEDGE strategies to categorize websites on Google Chrome.

Dig deeper. You can read the announcement on Gizmodo here.

Why we care. The implementation of Privacy Sandbox and the technologies like FLEDGE and Topics are worth noting because they impact your ability to effectively target and reach potential customers.

While the Privacy Sandbox aims to enhance user privacy by limiting data access and processing, it also creates a more controlled environment for advertisers to obtain the information they require to tailor their ads.

However, with FLEDGE and Topics, advertisers can still target users’ interests and preferences while preserving user anonymity and privacy. Thus, the technologies may help advertisers create more efficient and relevant ad campaigns, leading to better user engagement and, ultimately, improved return on investment (ROI). Or they could foster an environment where a user starts seeing more irrelevant ads, thus decreasing click and conversion rates.

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About the author

Nicole Farley

Nicole Farley is an editor for Search Engine Land covering all things PPC. In addition to being a Marine Corps veteran, she has an extensive background in digital marketing, an MBA and a penchant for true crime, podcasts, travel, and snacks.

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