Google's Privacy Sandbox beta on Android: A step forward for privacy, or a clever way to target you with more ads?

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 16, 2023
Updated • Feb 16, 2023
Google Android

Google announced the beta launch of Privacy Sandbox, which aims to transform advertising. The inapt name of the feature, at least from a user perspective, is laying a smoke-screen.

google privacy sandbox

The words privacy and sandbox have positive connotations, and Google uses the terminology to push the new ad system into its ecosystem.

In this week's announcement, Google notes that it is "developing solutions for digital advertising that limit user data sharing and don't rely on cross-app identifiers". The new system, called Privacy Sandbox, is now rolling out to select Android 13 devices in a beta phase.

The core differentiating factor between Privacy Sandbox and traditional, current, advertising systems is that the former moves tracking to a group level. Current advertising systems rely heavily on tracking. Advertisers aim to know a lot about users and use the information to display advertisement that they, or their systems, believe is most attractive to a particular user.

With Privacy Sandbox comes a shift to interest groups. There is no individual user tracking, which is good, but there is still tracking. Users are sorted into groups based on what they do on their devices. When a user visits lots of car, motorboat and cat websites, ads will predominantly focus on these groups to deliver ads.

Managing Privacy Sandbox

Android 13 device owners who are selected for the beta are in control, according to google. While they appear to be opted-in automatically, they may disable Privacy Sandbox and control their interests groups, according to Google.

They will also receive a notification on their Android 13 device that informs them that their device has been selected for the beta.

A new Privacy Sandbox section is available in the Settings app on Android devices. There, users may turn the feature off entirely. The same page lists current interests estimated by the Android device and by participating apps.

A click on either of these options displays all interests associated with the user. An option to block specific ads, e.g., for movies, local news or outdoors, is provided there as well.

Closing Words

Privacy Sandbox is one of Google's attempts to stay in control when it comes to advertising, at least on Android and on the Web. It is certainly an attractive proposition on first glance, as it eliminates individual user tracking in favor of group tracking.

Privacy advocates have pointed out that this is still tracking. Considering that Google plans to implement the feature in its Chrome web browser as well, it is also the first that is built directly into the company's browser.

The entire Privacy Sandbox idea is debated hotly. One group highlights that it makes tracking less invasive, as it moves it to a group level. Another group argues that tracking of user activity is still ongoing, as Android needs to identify the activity to associate the user with a particular group.

In any event, Google Android users may turn off Privacy Sandbox, at least for now, when they do not want to participate in it.

Now You: what is your take on Privacy Sandbox?

Privacy Sandbox beta on Android is all about ads
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Privacy Sandbox beta on Android is all about ads
Google announced the beta launch of Privacy Sandbox, which aims to transform advertising in Android and on the Web.
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  1. Albert said on August 18, 2023 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the tip Martin.

    It is for these kinds of posts that I follow GHacks.

    1. Mike Williams said on August 26, 2023 at 8:55 pm

      What’s up with the generic comment, are you a bot?

  2. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:23 pm


    Where on the planet is that still in use? I was forced to give up using my RAZRV3 years ago because 2G was phased out by AT&T.

    1. arbuz said on August 20, 2023 at 5:02 pm

      Everywhere 3G has been turned off and you don’t have LTE coverage, and believe me there are many developed countries where this is the case and if it weren’t for 2G you wouldn’t even be able to make a phone call.

    2. Doc Fuddled said on August 31, 2023 at 5:55 pm

      Maybe I missed it, but I don’t believe tha term “2G” is in the article. Perhaps you are referring to “AGM G2”??

  3. Tachy said on August 18, 2023 at 3:27 pm


    Your website has gone insane.

    When I the post button I then saw my comment posted on a different article page. When I opened this article again, it is here.

    1. Martin P. said on August 31, 2023 at 4:39 pm

      @Tachy @Martin Brinkmann

      ” Your website has gone insane. ”

      Same here. Has happened several times.

      1. owl said on September 1, 2023 at 3:42 am

        @Martin P.,

        For over two weeks now,
        I’ve been seeing “Comments” posted by subscribers appearing in different, unrelated articles.
        For the time being,
        it would be better to specify the “article name and URL” at the beginning of the post.

  4. Anonymous said on August 18, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    @tachy a lot of non-phone devices with a sim in them rely on 2G, at least here in europe.
    Usually things reporting usage or errors/alarms on something remote that does not get day to day inspection in person. They are out there in vast numbers doing important work. Reliable, good range. The low datarate is no problem at all in those cases.
    3G is gone or on its last legs everywhere, but this stuff still has too much use to cancel.

    Anyhow, interesting that they would put that in. I can see the point if you suspect a hostile 2G environment (amateur eavesdroppers with laptop, ranging up to professional grade MITM fake towers while “strangely” not getting the stronger crypto voip 4G because it is being jammed, and back down to something as old ‘stingray’ devices fallen into the wrong hands).

    But does this also mean that they have handled and rolled out a fix for that nasty 4G ‘pwn by broadcast’ problem you reported earlier this year? I had 4G disabled due to that, on the off chance that some of the local criminals would buy some cheap chinese gear, download a working exploit and probe every phone in range all over town in the hope of getting into phones of the police.

  5. Andy Prough said on August 19, 2023 at 3:04 am

    >”While most may never be attacked in stingrays, it is still recommended to disable 2G cellular connections, especially since it does not have any downsides.”

    The downside would be losing connectivity. I spend a lot of time way out in the countryside where there’s often no service or almost none. My network allows 2G, and I need it sometimes. I have an option on the phone to disable 2G, I may do that when I’m in the city and I have good 5G connectivity, but not out in the country.

    I would imagine that the stingray exploits, like most of the bad things in this world, are probably things you will run into in the crowded big cities.

  6. owl said on August 21, 2023 at 3:40 am

    I stopped using it in a mobile (Wi-Fi line) environment, so I’m almost ignorant of the actual situation,
    But the recent reality in Japan makes me realize that “the infrastructure of the web is nothing more than a papier-mâché fiction”.

    It is already beyond the scope of what an individual can do.
    What we should be aware of is the reality that “governments and those in power want to control the world through the Web”, and efforts to counter (resist and prevent) such ambitions are necessary.

  7. Anonymous said on August 26, 2023 at 9:27 pm

    Why do you want people to disable the privacy features? Hmmmmm?

  8. Anonymous said on August 27, 2023 at 2:30 am

    Now You: do you plan to keep the Ads privacy features enabled?

    I’d like to tell you, but apparently if you make a post critical of Google, you get censored. * [Editor: removed, just try to bring your opinion across without attacking anyone]

  9. Tachy said on August 27, 2023 at 5:15 am


    You website is still psychotic. Comments attach to random stories.

  10. John G. said on August 28, 2023 at 2:46 pm

    @Martin please do fix the comments, it’s completely insane commenting here! :[

  11. ECJ said on August 28, 2023 at 5:37 pm


    The comments are seriously messed up on gHacks now. These comments are mixed with the article at the below URL.

    And comments on other articles are from as far back as 2010.

  12. Naimless said on August 29, 2023 at 12:57 am

    What does this article has anything to do with all the comments on this article? LOL I think this Websuite is ran by ChatGPT. every article is messed up. Some older comments from 2015 shown up in recant articles, LOL

  13. Paul Knight said on August 31, 2023 at 3:35 am

    The picture captioned “Clearing the Android Auto’s cache might resolve the issue” is from Apple Carplay ;)

  14. Anonymous said on August 31, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    How about other things that matter:
    Drop survival?
    Screen toughness?
    Degree of water and dust protection?

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