Google Privacy Sandbox for Android  —  Is It Really the End of Attribution?

Google Privacy Sandbox for Android is another big change in the mobile advertising world. Find out everything you need to know about it!

The introduction of Apple’s ATT turned the mobile industry upside down. Ever since then, mobile marketers have been fearing that Google will make a similar move.

And BAM, that’s exactly what happened.

In February 2022, Google announced its own major privacy update – Privacy Sandbox for Android. It is based on the same general idea as Apple’s ATT, but it’s not the same thing.

The announcement of Google Privacy Sandbox raised a lot of questions.

How will it work exactly? What does this mean for app marketers?

Perhaps the most important question of all is – how can you overcome this challenge?

Lay back, we have all the answers right here.

data privacy

The Rise of Data Privacy

The main idea behind both Apple’s and Google’s privacy updates is to put an end to universal platform identifiers. This includes GAID on Google, IDFA for Apple, and third-party tracking. All of these can be very useful for many legitimate reasons.

Then again, they are also used as tools to track the users’ activity.

Since users are becoming more and more aware of this, Google and Apple decided to take some steps to protect their privacy.

What is Google Privacy Sandbox for Android?

The idea of ​​Privacy Sandbox has been around for a couple of years. Initially, Google developed it for Chrome with the purpose of “killing” third-party cookies on the web and protecting the users’ privacy.

In the meanwhile, Apple made its move to protect in-app privacy. Probably encouraged by this, Google decided to expand Privacy Sandbox from the web to Android.

At its core, the Privacy Sandbox for Android is being designed to depreciate GAID (Google Advertising ID).

Advertisers currently use GAID to track the users’ activity across apps and deliver personalized ads. At the moment, users can turn this feature off only in their phone’s ad settings.

However, once the Privacy Sandbox rolls out, GAID should be gone for good.

Yup, this is a huge change for app marketers.

One thing that makes things a bit easier is that Google is planning to launch the Privacy Sandbox for Android only after two years of testing. This means you’ll have a sufficient amount of time to prepare for this change.

Privacy Sandbox for Android: Main Proposals

The design of the Privacy Sandbox will consist of four main components. Each of these components will play an important role in protecting user privacy.

In other words, at Google, they thought about everything.

Here’s a quick overview of these four components:

  1. SDK Runtime. Created to make integration of third-party SDKs into apps safer.
  2. Topics. Should enable interest-based targeting without relying on user-level identifiers.
  3. Attribution Reporting. An API that allows advertisers to track ad performance without user-level data sharing.
  4. FLEDGE. A system that enables advertisers to curate “custom audiences” based on previous app usage. This should enable retargeting and personalized targeting.

The ultimate goal of this combination? Allowing you to continue creating targeted ad campaigns and track their KPIs. All while the users’ privacy is protected.

apple app store

Is Google Privacy Sandbox the SKAdNetwork for Android?

Ever since Google announced its Privacy Sandbox for Android, people have been comparing it to Apple’s ATT framework.

The similarities between the two are pretty obvious.

Both of them are focused on user privacy and want to depreciate cross-app identifiers. Also, both come with their own attribution tools.

This is probably the main thing they have in common.

Out of all the announced features, Google’s Attribution Reporting is most similar to Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN).

SKAdNetwork is Apple’s attribution solution that anonymizes and aggregates user data, making it privacy-compliant. It lacks granularity and brings in delayed pieces of data (Conversion Values) to advertisers.

Google’s Attribution Reporting is pretty much the same thing, but, according to them – better. One of their main promises is more ad campaign granularity than the one from SKAN.

It is in Google’s best interest to be as advertiser-friendly as possible.

The reason is quite obvious – Google’s advertising business is much bigger than Apple’s. If they make some wrong moves, they will jeopardize their own revenues. Since the stakes are so much higher, Google is putting a lot of effort into testing and getting the advertisers’ feedback over two years.

Google Privacy Sandbox for Android and mobile attribution

What Does Privacy Sandbox Mean for Mobile Marketers

Data privacy is changing mobile marketing as we know it. That’s for sure.

It’s been over a year since its introduction, and app advertisers are still learning how to cope with Apple’s ATT.

On top of that, another major change is on its way.

Before all these privacy updates, app marketers were heavily dependent on user-level data. In some cases, they still are. They rely on granular behavior data on their users to optimize their campaigns and get the most out of them. To access all this data, they need access to the users’ advertising IDs (GAID, IDFA).

The problem?

Once Google’s privacy updates come to life, marketers probably won’t have access to the users’ GAID.

When it comes to Apple, advertisers can still access IDFA, but only with the users’ consent. The users get a consent notice to opt in or out of app tracking. According to Statista, 46% of app users say “yes” to this. This still gives iOS app marketers a fair share of user-level data.

The Privacy Sandbox for Android probably won’t have a feature like this.

If Google successfully implements its proposals, GAID won’t even be necessary. FLEDGE and Topics seem to be advertiser-friendly features that will make things easier for advertisers. However, we still don’t know how well they will work.

Privacy Sandbox options

What You Can Do to Prepare for the Arrival of Google Privacy Sandbox

If you don’t adapt to the privacy changes in time, you’ll feel like you’re suddenly left in a dark room.

If predictions turn out to be true, and Google eliminates GAID, this will be the end of attribution as we know it on Android. This type of attribution is called deterministic attribution, and it will be made impossible.

When this happens, most marketers will start looking for alternatives.

One of the popular alternatives to deterministic attribution is probabilistic attribution. This is a type of attribution based on probabilities. These probabilities are calculated from historical and available data and they bring in decent results.

This is one option.

But what if we tell you there is still a way to get 100% accurate data while acquiring new users?

Yup, even with all the privacy restrictions.

We’re talking about advertising on O&O (owned and operated) properties.

How Advertising on O&O Properties Can Help You in the Age of Privacy

One of the best things you can do to deal with the privacy changes is to change your focus from third party-data to first-party data.

Once the Privacy Sandbox rolls out, Google will still allow apps to use the first-party data shared by the user.


When using an app, users agree to share first-party data with that particular app. The same cannot be said for third-party data. This data is shared between two or more parties without the user’s consent.

Luckily, first-party data can still be used for ad targeting. All while following the privacy requirements of both Apple and Google in the future.

You can do this by placing your ads on O&O properties that leverage first-party data for ad targeting.

If you choose the right O&O property, you will also benefit from quality target audiences. You should make sure that the property you choose has the audience you want to reach. For example, casual gamers.

Another thing you want from an O&O property is an easy campaign setup – preferably with a CPI model. That way, you only pay for the users you actually acquire.

Privacy Sandbox for Android and O&O Properties: Final Thoughts

With the rise of privacy restrictions, O&O properties, and first-party data are becoming more relevant than ever before.

The worst thing you can do at this point is to wait for more restrictions and deal with them then.

You don’t want that kind of chaos.

Even before the Privacy Sandbox for Android arrives, advertising on O&O properties can help you overcome the current restrictions by Apple. MAF can help you with this. We run campaigns on O&O properties and help mobile apps & games reach a premium user inventory.

Care to hear more?

Check out more details and reach out to us!

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