Android 13 Beta 1 is available along with Privacy Sandbox Preview

Google just released Android 13 Beta 1, with the goal of improving privacy and security, as well as developer productivity. Besides, developers can start exploring Privacy Sandbox Preview, a set of technologies that improve user privacy while enabling personalized ads, Google says.

Android 13 Beta 1 introduces new, more precise permissions to access media files. In particular, while the older Android version eliminated all media types featured within the same category, Android 13 clearly distinguishes three types of media files: photos, images, videos, and audio files.

When the user grants the permissions, the apps will have read access to the respective media file types. To simplify the experience for users, if an application requests READ_MEDIA_IMAGE and READ_MEDIA_VIDEO at the same time, the system will display a single dialog to grant both permissions.

Apps that access shared media files will need to switch to the new permission system if they want to continue to work as expected on Android 13. For compatibility with previous Android versions, apps will also need to include the old version READ_EXTERNAL_STORAGE Permission for SDKs up to version 32 incl.

Android 13 Beta 1 is also improving support for selecting the best audio format to use for the audio track. Especially new getAudioDevicesForAttributes() Allows developers to retrieve a list of devices that can be used to play the selected audio and getDirectProfilesForAttributes() Indicates whether an audio stream can be played directly.

Other features coming in Android 13 that were already available through developer previews include a new notification permission, color vector support, text-transform APIs, Bluetooth LE Audio, MIDI 2.0 over USB, and more.

Roughly equivalent to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, Privacy Sandbox for Android is a solution that allows users to block an app that can track them using an advertising ID.

Google’s approach focuses on preventing cross-tracking across different apps, while still giving the single app an effective way to deliver personalized ads. In particular, these include Topics, Referral Reports, and FLEDGE on Android.

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

The Topic API supports what is called interest-based advertising (IBA), where ads are shown to users based on their interests as they can be inferred from applications they have been using in the past. This differs from contextual ads where ads are shown based on the content the user is currently consuming.

Setting up a referral report is similar to Apple’s ATT solution and aims to prevent the use of shared identifiers between parties such as device identifiers, advertising identifiers, etc., which can easily be used to track users. Each ad publisher gets its own ID which is then used to provide aggregate summaries of clicks and/or views for conversion and fraud tracking.

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 a user an ad 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 user-related identifiers being shared across service providers. Instead, all user-related information is kept on the device itself and can be used by applications that support FLEDGE to participate in the bidding process.

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

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