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Brave browser now can show its privacy-first ads on Android, too

The browser strips out website ads but shows its own, giving you most of the revenue from them.

Brave browser's lion logo

The Android move is a significant expansion of Brave's advertising ambitions.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Browser startup Brave now can show its privacy-first ads on Android, not just personal computers. The company's browser blocks websites' ads and trackers by default, but if you opt in to see Brave-supplied ads instead, you'll get 70 percent of the resulting revenue.

With most of Brave's users on smartphones, the Android move is a significant expansion of Brave's advertising ambitions.

Brave is trying to build a new system that preserves the advantages of today's online ad technology -- a source of revenue for free websites and online services -- but that respects privacy. The browser itself is designed to target ads to your own interests without sharing that personal data, but advertisers do get confirmation that their ads were actually shown or clicked on.

The ads show as basic text in an operating system notification pop-up; clicking or tapping the ad opens it in a new Brave browser tab. Brave plans another system later to build ads into partners' websites, too.

From the perspective of ad giants like Facebook and Google whose ad targeting technology is built on a profile capturing your personal traits, Brave's ad system is potentially disruptive. With privacy a big concern and Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook criticizing ad-supported services, Brave's ads are particularly interesting. But to fulfill its ambition, Brave will have to reach a large number of both advertisers and browser users.

So far, 71 advertisers have run ad campaigns through the personal computer versions of Brave, the company said. With that early sample, people clicked on 22 percent of ads, and for those clicks, 28 percent spent 10 seconds or more looking at the advertiser's website, CEO Brendan Eich said in a statement. Eich formerly was CEO of Mozilla, maker of the Firefox web browser.

If you sign up for Brave's ad system -- it's off unless you activate it -- you shouldn't expect a windfall. The revenue accumulates in an online wallet and, if you follow the default settings, is shared back with websites you visit, YouTubers and Twitch video game streamers. Brave also has begun testing a tipping system that lets you directly donate to Reddit and Twitter users. Twitter's work on a new user interface has disabled the feature for now, but Brave is working on a fix for those using that interface, the company said.

For its payment technology, Brave relies on a cryptocurrency-like system called the basic attention token, or BAT. Today, only publishers can extract BAT from the payment system, but Brave plans to open the technology up to all browser users willing to verify their identity.

Brave also announced a partnership program Thursday under which third-party companies can build Brave-format ads on behalf of advertising clients. It's also got a mechanism that can offer Brave users more BAT for deeper engagement -- 10 BAT for looking under the hood of a car shown online and 300 BAT for actually visiting a dealer for example. "Certified vendors will pass testing to ensure that the rewards behavior is functioning as intended," said Luke Mulks, Brave's director of ads and partnerships.