Google to implement Privacy Sandbox for Android

Earlier this week Google announced that it will be rolling out a beta version of Android 14 in anticipation of its final release later this year. The most significant proposed change to the operating system is the removal of the Android Advertising ID under Privacy Sandbox for Android. Google plan to replace this ID with four new APIs – SDK Runtime, Topics, FLEDGE, and Attribution reporting (the four horsemen of the Privacy Sandbox Apocalypse).  

We at MOW are too versed in the failings of these proposals on the browser to hold much store in their ability to support mobile app functionalities. Indeed, a solution which replaces user-level de-identified IDs with interest-based data, will necessarily be less effective in supporting the advertising industry. 

Use of Google’s Privacy Sandbox APIs will be subject to user permissions. This begs the question; why then is Google removing access to complete user IDs? Privacy is certainly not the likely answer as the ID is both de-identified and its use conditional on opt-out user controls.

The logical explanation, therefore, is that Privacy Sandbox for Android, like Privacy Sandbox for the browser, exists to cement Google’s intermediary position in the advertising ecosystem.

Presumably, Google themselves will retain the underlying user-activity data. This is particularly likely as Privacy Sandbox for Android is not covered by their commitments to the CMA, which require that Google will cease to use personal data from a user’s Chrome browsing history following the depreciation.

We will be encouraging the CMA to investigate and potentially challenge these proposed changes.