First of all, the reason for the somewhat contrived name (Privacy Sandbox on Android) is that there is already a web version of Privacy Sandbox, introduced way back in August of 2019.
The Android version of Privacy Sandbox consists of four design proposals, which are a good (if semi-technical) read. You can find them here.
The responses so far have fallen broadly into four different categories:
- Mainstream media, like the NY Times, which all pretty much just riffed on Google's announcement blog post.
- Misinformed mainstream media counter-takes, which tried to spin up a narrative around how Google was delivering a second, ATT-esque 'body blow' (or some equivalently violent metaphor) to Facebook.
- Privacy zealots, who have a reputation to maintain and feel the Privacy Sandbox proposals don't go nearly far enough.
- Industry analyses, which generally seem to agree that Privacy Sandbox on Android is a genuinely good collection of proposals that deserves serious discussion.
What Is Android Privacy Sandbox? Is This The IDFA Apocalypse All Over Again?
Type: Industry Analysis.
I'm slightly biased because I wrote it, but if you only read one article about Privacy Sandbox…make it this one.
This blog post explains the various pieces of Privacy Sandbox, its history, the rollout timeline, and how it compares to ATT on iOS. I also address a number of other FAQs we've heard so far.
RIP GAID: Privacy Sandbox is coming to Android. What advertisers need to know.
Type: Industry Analysis.
If you read a second article, this should probably be it. A good breakdown of the different parts of Privacy Sandbox, including the ad targeting components (which my overview above doesn't really get into).
Android Privacy Sandbox Deep Dive
Type: Industry Analysis.
To round out the top three, if you'd like a really solid teardown of how the attribution components of Privacy Sandbox will work, this is worth your time.
Android’s toothless “Privacy Sandbox” fails to answer iOS tracking limits
Type: Privacy Zealot.
Next, we have an example of a much more skeptical take (another is here). The thrust of these naysayers seems to be around three things:
- Privacy Sandbox is not
- The two-year rollout timeline is long.
- These are still just proposals (rather than requirements), and there is no explicit confirmation that GAID will go away.
In other words, they're interpreting this is a cynical move by Google to head off regulatory scrutiny, while keeping the 'tracking party' on Android going full-frenzy.
I think this is wrong for several reasons:
- Two years is really not that long (reminder: we're already coming up on the two-year anniversary of iOS 14, and that turmoil is still shaking out).
- When it comes to ads, Google faces regulatory pressure that Apple doesn't (for better or worse), so they can't do what Apple did. This means they're stuck between a rock and a hard place on privacy and antitrust, so they need to provide a workable alternative before touching the current infrastructure.
- The status quo on Android's user privacy protections isn't 'nothing' — between the new Data safety in Play Console and the change to delete GAIDs when users opt out of ads personalization, the landscape is already shifting.
Ultimately, nothing Google introduced here was going to be good enough for everyone: when it comes to privacy, the mainstream take seems to be that Apple can do no wrong…which means even if Google had announced a full, point-for-point photocopy of ATT, it would have been cast as insufficient simply because it's coming from a different source.
Google hits Meta with ad changes that could cost Zuckerberg billions
Type: Misinformed Counter-Take.
This is an example of A Very Bad Take™ from a mainstream reporter who simply didn't understand the announcement, didn't read the the documentation, and took the easy headline of casting this as 'ATT for Android'.
For evidence of why this is not correct, we need go no further than this supportive tweet from Meta's own VP of Ads and Business Product Marketing, Graham Mudd. Yes, there will certainly be some impact compared to the status quo, because 'walled garden' advertisers (like Facebook) currently rely on user-level identifiers like IDFA and GAID to power the feedback loops that let them target and optimize ad campaigns.
Universal user-level IDs are a relic of a previous era that are going extinct one way or the other — almost no one seriously disputes that at this point, so the real discussion is around how to find alternatives that give acceptable user privacy protections while still allowing apps to function. The cost of getting that wrong? The bad behavior simply goes underground.
CMA to keep ‘close eye’ on Google as it secures final Privacy Sandbox commitments
Finally, one of the (legitimate) concerns about Privacy Sandbox is timeline and scope-creep: its web version was announced two and a half years ago, and nothing has really changed yet.
Consensus-driven changes are always going to be slower than autocratic decisions, but one big reason for the delay is that Privacy Sandbox has been under investigation for the last year by the UK's competition regulators. That was finally cleared up last Friday.
Google usually announces Android-related changes on Wednesdays, and Privacy Sandbox came to Android the very first Wednesday after the UK's investigation was closed. Probably not a coincidence?
Interoperable Private Attribution (IPA): A Non-technical introduction
Privacy Sandbox isn't the only privacy-centric attribution proposal floating around recently — another is IPA (Interoperable Private Attribution), from Meta and Mozilla.
I think this proposal has a lot of good concepts, and it's worth following along. I also think it faces a long road to adoption. Unfortunately, the concept of 'user privacy' has become too much of a mega-corporation talking point, and it seems unlikely that all of them will be willing to cede control to an independent standards body anytime soon.
Google Search Is Dying
The drumbeat of 'reasons why Google search is becoming worse' has been going on for years, but this is a solid collection of actual evidence.
A big one that's missing: users are moving to mobile apps, but Google search isn't. In fact, a big reason why Google's project to include app-only content in search results got put out to pasture was apparently concerns by ads PMs that it would cannibalize web traffic.
Side-by-side device level and SKAdNetwork data
Comparing Privacy Sandbox with the iOS 14 privacy changes (SKAdNetwork and ATT), I think one of the biggest differences is philosophical:
- Apple's primary consideration seems to have been creating something that was 'perfect' from their perspective of privacy protection. But the issue with this strategy is if the new system is too simplistic to be usable, it simply pushes workarounds into a sort of ‘tracking black market’…which is unfortunately what we're seeing on iOS today.
- In contrast, Google seems to have looked at what was going on in the ecosystem, really spending the time to take what they saw happening on iOS and what they've learned over the last few years from the web version of Privacy Sandbox, and come up with proposals that strike a balance that could actually work for everyone.
In practical terms, the outcome of the iOS approach is that advertisers are stuck trying to make sense of two totally separate, unreconcilable data sources (SKAdNetwork and consented user-level data). Since there is no way to merge this data on iOS, the most common solution right now is displaying both side-by-side…which is what Adjust is describing here.
Adapting ahead of regulation: a principled approach to app stores
Microsoft is wading into the topic of competition on app stores again.
While they are no longer a meaningful player in the world of mobile, this is still a savvy positioning move on their part (for a more in-depth analysis of why, read this).
The Mobile Growth Stack: 2022 Redux
The original Mobile Growth Stack (from 2014) is legendary — one person was telling me this week about how 'jaws dropped in the room' the first time it was introduced — and led pretty directly to the founding of Phiture by its creators (today, one of the most highly-regarded mobile agencies around).
Now, Phiture is back with a full renovation for 2022. You should take a look at it.
How Coinbase Did It: A Teardown of the 2022 Super Bowl QR Code Commercial
At this year's Super Bowl last weekend, crypto was everywhere.
Coinbase got most of the follow-up buzz thanks to a quirky commercial that featured nothing more than a simple, color-shifting QR code bouncing around on a black screen. Here's how it worked behind the scenes.
"Joe Danger is relaunching on iOS today! Remastered with improved visuals, high frame rate…"
One of the most "awwww" things you'll read all week, I promise.
Senior Manager for Mobile Growth and Business Strategy on LinkedIn: Martijn Lancee
Top Preload Strategies for Driving Mobile Growth
You need to drive member value when launching a new feature or app. LinkedIn puts a lot of effort into ensuring that the platform is valuable to everyone with a job or looking for a job.
Working on mobile growth preloads as a strategy, Martijn Lancee advises developers to launch a test with Digital Turbine and ironSource to understand how preloads could work for them. The challenging part is that you have to build that trust in time.
Converting desktop and web users to start using your app offers more engagement and monetization. To convert users, you should constantly make effective app banners and let your users know about the benefits of using the app.
Mobile Growth Online: International Women's Day
When: Tue, Mar 8, 2:00 PM (GMT).
Panelists: Babbel, Babylon Health, New Look, Shopmium.
Mobile Growth Online: Women in Mobile
When: Tue, Mar 22, 12:00 PM (PDT).
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When Apple triggered the beginning of the IDFA Apocalypse at WWDC in 2020, it was clear to anyone paying attention that it would be only a matter of time before Google brought something similar to Android.
This week, we found out what that 'something' would be: Privacy Sandbox on Android (yes, that appears to be the official name, and yes, I also think it sounds a bit contrived…but I'll explain the reason for that in a moment).
You've probably already heard something about Privacy Sandbox over the last few days, but I'd understand if you hadn't: to borrow a meme from last year's popular Loki miniseries, if the iOS 14 privacy changes were a nexus event that went straight for the red line (multiversal chaos — we all remember the disruption that came after iOS 14, because we're still living through it today), then Privacy Sandbox is a variant that has already been successfully pruned.
The main subject of today's newsletter will be getting you up to speed on what Privacy Sandbox is, how Google's announcement has been received so far across the ecosystem, and what it means for the future of the mobile industry.
Let's get started!Alex Bauer