Google Plans Privacy Changes, but Promises to Not Be Disruptive

Google on Wednesday said it was working on privacy measures to limit data sharing on smartphones running its Android software. But the company promised that those changes would not be as disruptive as the similar move by Apple last year.

Users’ permission was sought before Apple allowed changes to its iOS software on iPhones to allow advertisers to track them. Apple’s permission restrictions – and, ultimately, the decision by users to block tracking – have had a profound effect on Internet companies building businesses on so-called targeted ads.

Google did not provide a specific timeline for its changes, but said it would support existing technologies for at least two more years.

This month, the company, founded as Meta, Facebook, said it would spend $ 10 billion losing advertising revenue this year due to Apple’s privacy changes. The revelations weighed heavily on Meta’s share price and raised concerns about other companies relying on digital advertising.

Anthony Chavez, vice president of Google’s Android division, said in an interview before the announcement that it was too early to measure the potential impact of Google’s changes, which aim to limit the sharing of data across apps and third parties. But he insisted the company’s goal was to find a more private option for users while also allowing developers to continue advertising revenue.

As the world’s two largest smartphone software providers, Google and Apple have a significant influence on what mobile apps can do on billions of devices. Changes to increase privacy or give users more control over their data – a growing demand from consumers, regulators and politicians – costs companies that collect data to sell personalized ads to users’ interests and demographics.

Mr. Chavez said that if Google and Apple did not offer a privacy-minded option, advertisers could turn to more confidential options that could lead to less protection for users. He also argued that Apple’s “passive approach” was proving to be “effective”, citing a study that said changes to iOS could not make a significant difference in preventing third-party tracking.

Apple declined to comment.

The changes from Google and Apple are significant because digital advertising based on the accumulation of data about users has been based on the Internet for the last 20 years. But that business model is facing more challenges as users become more skeptical about far-reaching data collection amid the general distrust of technology giants.

The difference in approach between Apple and Google also speaks to how each company makes the most of its money. Apple generates most of its revenue from the sale of devices, while Google earns most of its money from selling digital ads and may be more open to the needs of advertisers.

Wayne Coburn, product director at marketing software company Itarable, said it was not surprising that Google was taking the step when Apple was aggressively pitching privacy as a selling point on products running on Android. However, he said Google’s approach felt like a “weak gesture” by providing a two-year timeline. He expects the company to be forced to do “more, faster”.

“This is a reaction to what Apple did,” he said. Coburn said. “Google will not do this on its own.”

Google said it plans to bring its privacy initiative, Privacy Sandbox, which was primarily limited to reducing tracking on the company’s Chrome browser, to Android – the world’s most widely used software for mobile devices. In the face of resistance from privacy groups and advertisers, Google has been forced to improve its approach to removing so-called cookies, a tracking tool, on Chrome.

Google said it is proposing some new privacy-minded approaches in Android to allow advertisers to measure ad campaign performance and show personalized ads based on past behavior or recent interests – as well as new tools to limit invisible tracking by apps. Google did not offer further details on how these new options would work.

As part of the changes, Google said it plans to phase out the Ad ID, a tracking feature in Android that helps advertisers know when users have clicked on an ad, purchased a product, and their interests and activities. Tabs are kept. Google said it has already allowed users to opt out of personalized ads by removing the tracking identifier.

The company said it plans to remove identifiers used in advertising on Android for everyone – including Google. Mr. Chavez said Google’s own apps would not have exclusive or privileged access to Android data or features without specifying how it would work. This echoes Google’s pledge to regulators in the UK that it will not offer preferential treatment to its own products.

The company did not offer a specific timeline for the removal of the ad ID, but is committed to maintaining the existing system for two years. Google said it would provide preview versions of its new proposals to advertisers before releasing a more complete trial version this year.

Mr. Chavez said Google’s move was not prompted by Apple’s actions, adding that the company was always looking to “raise the bar” on privacy.

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