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InfoQ Homepage News Android 13 Beta 1 Available along with Privacy Sandbox Preview

Android 13 Beta 1 Available along with Privacy Sandbox Preview

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Google has just introduced Android 13 Beta 1, aiming to improve privacy and security, as well as developer productivity. Alongside it, developers can start exploring the Privacy Sandbox Preview, a collection of technologies that improve user privacy while enabling personalized ads, says Google.

Android 13 Beta 1 introduces new, more granular permissions to access media files. In particular, whereas older Android version dumped all distinct media types under the same category, Android 13 explicitly differentiates three media file types: images and photos, videos, and audio files.

When the permissions are granted by the user, apps will have read access to the respective media file types. To simplify the experience for users, If an app requests READ_MEDIA_IMAGE and READ_MEDIA_VIDEO at the same time, the system displays a single dialog for granting both permissions.

Apps accessing shared media files will need to migrate to the new permission system if they want to keep working as expected on Android 13. For compatibility with previous Android versions, apps will also need to include the old READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE permission for SDKs up to and including version 32.

Android 13 Beta 1 also improves support for determining the best audio format to use for an audio track. In particular, a new getAudioDevicesForAttributes() allows developers to retrieve a list of devices that may be used to play the specified audio and getDirectProfilesForAttributes() tells whether an audio stream can be played directly.

Other upcoming features in Android 13 that were already available through developers previews include a new notification permission, support for color vector fonts, text conversion APIs, Bluetooth LE Audio, MIDI 2.0 over USB, and more.

The Privacy Sandbox for Android is roughly the equivalent to Apple's App Tracking Transparency, a solution that allows users to prevent an app can track them using an advertisement ID.

Google's approach focuses on preventing cross-tracking across different apps, while still granting an individual app effective means to present customized advertisements. In particular, those include Topics, Attribution Reporting, and FLEDGE on Android.

Our goal with the Privacy Sandbox on Android is to develop effective and privacy enhancing advertising solutions, where users know their privacy is protected, and developers and businesses have the tools to succeed on mobile.

The Topics API supports so called Interest-based advertising (IBA), where users are shown ads based on their interests as they can be inferred from the apps they have been using in the past. This differs from contextualized advertising in that ads are displayed based on content the user is currently consuming.

Attribution Reporting is similar to Apple's ATT solution and aims to prevent the usage of cross-party identifiers such device IDs, advertising IDs, and so on, which can be easily used to track users. Every Ads publisher gets its own identifier which is then used to provide aggregate summaries about clicks and/or views to track conversion and fraud.

FLEDGE is a specific approach to what is commonly referred to as "remarketing" and "custom audience targeting". For example, an app might want to show an Ad to a user who left some items in the shopping cart and remind them to complete the purchase. FLEDGE implements a bidding mechanism to make this possible without sharing user-related identifiers across providers. Instead, all user-related information is kept on the device itself and can be used by apps adopting FLEDGE to participate in the bid process.

As implied above, none of the above approaches have met any significant adoption, and it remains to be seen how well they will fare with the advertising industry. For this reason, the current Advertising ID will be supported for at least two years, says Google.

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