Topics API: How Privacy Sandbox on Android connects people with ads

Mobile marketers learned quickly last year that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency, delivered in iOS 14.5, significantly changed the landscape of user acquisition and growth. The big question, however, was what Google was going to do.

The answer: privacy sandbox for Android, which includes a new SDK runtime in which adtech SDKs will live, and many other changes. One of them: how Google’s new privacy tech will allow ad networks to connect specific ads with specific people.

From my recent post on Singular’s blog, Google’s answer is Topics API:

Topics are based on a user’s recent ad usage and app installs, but if a user deletes an app, any topics associated with that app won’t be removed from their list of topics, “in order to avoid disclosing information about the uninstallation,” Google says.

While the list of topics right now is fairly limited, this could be expanded over time, Google says. Clearly, Google wants to avoid too-tight targeting based on topics that adtech SDKs save and remember over time, associating with a user, in order to develop a very detailed profile of a person that could be used in privacy-threatening ways.

Interestingly, Google says that potential topics for a user are defined by a classifier model for apps. 

In other words, apps feed the taxonomy for users, and the data that trains the model uses publicly available information like app name, description, and package name. Apps can map to multiple topics, or none, but there is a limit: no matter how many they have, only 3 will be added to the user’s topic history in any given week.

Get the full story in my post at my client Singular’s blog …