Google makes ‘Privacy Sandbox' for Android stringent but changes could take multiple years

Google Android

Google is taking the ‘Privacy Sandbox’ feature from Chrome, and applying it to its Android operating system. The feature currently limits tracking across websites in Chrome, and would theoretically, do the same for apps and web services that users access on their Android smartphones.

Several smartphone users and privacy advocates have long complained that Android is a lot less privacy-friendly than it should be. Apple claims, ‘What happens on iPhone, stays on an iPhone’, but this isn’t absolutely accurate either. Still, Apple seems to zealously promote the privacy and security aspect of iOS. With Privacy Sandbox, Google could be doing the same for Android.

Google has made an official announcement about adopting new privacy restrictions that will cut tracking across apps on its Android devices. The search giant indicated it is developing multiple approaches, but the primary focus seems to be on “Advertising ID”, which is a unique string of characters that identifies every user’s device. Anthony Chavez, Google’s vice president of Product Management, Android Security and Privacy, said:

Today, we’re announcing a multiyear 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.

Google has indicated that Privacy Sandbox is both a set of standards and a pledge. Under the initiative, the company has promised to develop new tech tools that will eventually limit tracking across the company’s multiple products and platforms. For a company that depends heavily on advertising revenue, such assurances are surprising, if not downright unbelievable.

Apple’s approach to privacy, with "App Tracking Transparency", angered several tech giants, including Facebook (now Meta). Google, on the other hand, is attempting to please both sides. The company reportedly mentioned it has worked with third-party developers to ensure that while the general public has a more private experience, its partners would not be adversely affected.

Google may seem non-committal about the roadmap of Privacy Sandbox for Android. But Chavez did indicate that the Android OS should receive privacy-focused features, presumably under the Privacy Sandbox initiative, in the next two years.

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