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Privacy Sandbox: How it works & What will it bring in 2024?

Google launched “Privacy Sandbox” project, also called “effort”, “proposal” or ” initiative”, in 2019 while planning to say sunset third party cookies. For context, third party cookies are being retired since some users’ data have been misused via such cookies. Google’s Privacy Sandbox is a project which aims to build “a more private and open web”. The main targets of the project are

  • provide more privacy or users by improving transparency
  • provide a new environment for marketers and advertisers to create targeted content for ads and campaigns

Why is Google launching Privacy Sandbox?

The main reason is increase in awareness of personal information collected by web. Significant concerns have arisen in society about how personal data is collected and used. Regulations about protection of personel data became enforceable for businesses and web browsers.

Internet users have started to prefer the browsers which do not use third part cookies due to concerns about their personel data and online privacy. Google intents to respond to that demand by Privacy Sandbox in the future. This project will provide new tools to use first-party data of its web browser, Chrome. Google will use Privacy Sandbox as an alternative to maintain its dominance in the online advertising.

What are the aims of Privacy Sandbox?

There are different objectives for different stakeholders at the Privacy Sandbox initiative.

  • Users: Privacy Sandbox aims to provide a safer web experience and protected environment for users. The personal data of the users are collected by third party cookies, fingerprinting techniques, etc. and used by third parties. That has caused serious concerns about privacy. Google wants to replace these tracking tools with new alternatives.
  • Brands: Privacy Sandbox intends to help companies to reach their existing and potential customers without intrusive online tracking tools.
  • Marketing & advertising agencies: Google claims that Privacy Sandbox can provide new privacy-centric alternatives which will support marketers to create relevant ads and campaigns.
  • Google: Though not explicitly stated by Google, this initiative gives more power to Google in the online advertising industry where Google already enjoys a leadership position.

Google has invited sector stakeholders to participate in the development and testing processes of Privacy Sandbox.

What does Privacy Sandbox include?

The proposals of Privacy Sandbox are still under development. Google intends to use new technologies to protect the online safety of the users. While doing that, Google wants to continue helping businesses to achieve their business goals with safer solutions.

The following activities are ongoing initiatives in the context of Privacy Sandbox:

  • More private web: The end of third party cookies is coming. Google has proposed new techniques to prevent covert tracking:
    • Differential privacy: This technique adds a controlled randomness to the datasets to prevent revealing personal information about individuals.
    • K-anonymity: This concept/ feature/ the privacy model is used to measure the anonymity within a dataset.
    • On-device processing: The data is collected locally on the phone or computer of the user.
  • A privacy-preserving solution for authenticity:
    • Trust Tokens: Privacy Sandbox aims to provide a new API (Application Programming Interface) for verification without tracking users.
  • Ad targeting: Privacy Sandbox is developing new technologies with more privacy to create tailored content and ads:
    • Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC): Privacy Sandbox is testing its new method to collect and analyze users data.
    •  First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups: A new algorithm has started to be used to show relevant ads and offers from websites the user has previously visited.
  • Anonymized reporting: Privacy Sandbox intends to use new approaches to measure the performance and results of ads. In addition, campaigns are aggregated to improve anonymity.

Google has provided more details if you want to explore further.

What is the timeline of Privacy Sandbox?

Google updates the timeline of Privacy Sandbox monthly and last update was in August 2021. According to that announcement, the proposed new methods, approaches and technologies seem to be completed and their transition periods will start before the end of 2022.

Source: The Privacy Sandbox
“OT” means “origin trial” on the timeline.

What are the concerns about Privacy Sandbox?

The development of the proposals of Privacy Sandbox is continuing. Therefore, it is not easy to predict its effects in the digital/online world. The concerns about Privacy Sandbox has begun to emerge in the sector and society. Some of these concerns are listed below.

  • Competition: It is thought that Google will be in a stronger position in the digital ecosystem with the proposed solutions. In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened an investigation in January, 2021 into Google’s proposals. The investigation will asses transferring key functionality to Chrome and distortion of competition.
  • Access to data: Industry players want to ensure equitable access to data in the Privacy Sandbox. How much of the data publishers, ad tech companies, Google teams, etc. will access in the Privacy Sandbox is critical.
  • Compliance with the law: Privacy Sandbox will be a major challenge for everyone, including web users. How it will ensure compliance with data protection regulations is another matter of debate.
  • Future projects: If Privacy Sandbox achieves its mission about the open web, other browsers may start new projects to provide new standards for their users.

Further reading: You can read our other articles about data privacy :

If you have questions about Privacy Sandbox and data privacy solutions, we would like to help:

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This article was drafted by former AIMultiple industry analyst Ayşegül Takımoğlu.

Access Cem's 2 decades of B2B tech experience as a tech consultant, enterprise leader, startup entrepreneur & industry analyst. Leverage insights informing top Fortune 500 every month.
Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst
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Cem Dilmegani
Principal Analyst

Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.

Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.

Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.

He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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