Google releases first Android privacy sandbox preview with Themes API

Google is experimenting with new targeted advertising methods in the Chrome browser, aimed at replacing cross-site browser cookies that have driven online advertising (and privacy violations) for decades. The company’s latest effort is the Topix API, which was introduced in January, and now Google is starting to expand it beyond the browser.

Google on Thursday released the first Android Privacy Sandbox Developer Preview, which includes two components. The first is a new SDK runtime, intended for developers to use without providing the same permission level as the host application – Google says it could be used for more types of SDKs and development libraries in the future, but for the time being , it is limited to advertising. The second component of Privacy Sandbox is the Themes API, which seems to be similar to the Topics APIs that go into Google Chrome. Essentially, instead of sending usage data to external servers for ad targeting, the system picks topics that might interest you and allows ads to be targeted based on them.

Google says the new preview can be used to try out the theme API and retrieve test values, as well as run some sample applications. Unlike the usual Android beta and developer preview, there’s nothing exciting here for non-developers – everything else is better with the regular Android 13 beta.

Privacy Sandbox Developer Preview is based on Android 13 beta. It is available as an option in the Android emulator, as well as system images for the Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6, Pixel 5a (5G), Pixel 5, Pixel 4, and Pixel 4a. You’ll need to download and flash the build manually to try it out on a Pixel phone, as Google only intends for developers to try it out.

It’s a little surprising to see the Topix API coming to Android before it’s fully rolled out in Chrome – testing in the web browser only started in April. Google’s original Chrome privacy sandbox proposal from 2019 was criticized for its privacy problems by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), DuckDuckGo and other groups. Even though there hasn’t been the same level of complaints regarding the new Themes API offering, it’s based on the same idea: targeted advertising algorithms running on your device.

Source: android developers

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