Google will adopt new privacy restrictions that will curtail advertisers’ ability to track users of Android phones and other devices. The Alphabet-owned company follows Apple Inc in taking steps to strengthen privacy by putting restrictions on advertising practices that covertly collect data from mobile devices.
The changes would impact big companies such as Meta-owned Facebook, which used codes in apps to track consumer behaviour. Last year, Cupertino-based tech giant Apple introduced privacy changes, which slammed Facebook-parent Meta with losses. Earlier this month, Meta said Apple changes would bring down sales of the social media company this year by about $10 billion. The admission contributed to a record stock price drop, wiping out $232 billion from the company’s market cap in a single day and taking the total below $600 billion. Last year, the social media giant was worth over $1 trillion.
While last year Meta fought against Apple changes, the company has voiced its support for the privacy tweaks that Google plans to introduce.
Graham Mudd, vice president of product marketing, ads and business at Facebook, tweeted that the company was looking forward to continuing working with Google and the industry on privacy-enhancing tech. “
What are the changes
Google on Wednesday said that it will develop other ways for businesses to reach mobile users and gather information while restricting sharing of personal data of the individual. A similar “privacy sandbox” initiative was introduced in the Chrome browser in 2019.
The move comes at a time when the practice of tracking users for digital advertising has come under the glare of regulators in Europe.
In a blog post, Anthony Chavez, vice president of product management for Android security and privacy, said Google would try to create “new, more private advertising solutions,” on Android.
Although it is still not clear what technical solutions Google will introduce, here’s a look at what the changes could be:
· Google will try to limit sharing of private user data and key identifiers with third-party apps. At present, Google includes a unique identifier on Android devices, which is called the advertising ID system. The digital ID allows marketers to see what a user is doing across all apps, giving them access to a person's interests and activities. Google’s new initiative will limit apps' ability to capture that information.
· The app-tracking replacements that Google plans to develop for Android-based mobile phones are likely to be similar to that the tech giant is proposing for web browsers, where Google seeks to replace the user-tracking technology called third-party cookies.
· One proposal is that the Android device will track the apps of the user and analyse the data, instead of sending the raw usage information to other companies. The phones will inform the third parties of the user’s interest, which they can use to target with relevant ads.
· This process will help the users know that their information is protected and also provide developers and businesses the right tools to target the audience with their ads.
It will take time
Google said the changes will not take place for at least two years and the company would continue to support the current identifiers during that period. Google will "provide substantial notice ahead of any future changes", it said, giving the industry substantial time to make changes. The tech giant will collaborate with the industry to develop the replacements.
“We don’t think there should be a forced choice between privacy and developers building their business,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Chavez as saying.
Google hinted that the process could take time as developing such a solution is not going to be a linear process. Before it is finalised, the process would require a lot of testing and feedback.
“It will be complex and require significant time. So, the expectation is that the development, testing and iteration of this technology will take two to three years,” Indian Express quoted Jessica Martin, head of privacy, Google APAC, as saying.
Less of a worry
Given that Android enjoys a reputation of a data-miner’s delight, ad tech executives believe a delay is “a positive for the mobile advertising community”.
“Two years is an eternity in tech and effectively Google is saying you don’t have to worry about it for two years,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Ari Paparo, an ad tech executive, as saying. Eventually, a decline in mobile ad effectiveness is expected when the changes are introduced, he said.
(Edited by : Thomas Abraham)