Google is planning privacy changes to limit ad tracking on Android

16 Feb 2022

Image: © prima91/Stock.adobe.com

The company said its Android privacy updates will be less disruptive than ‘ineffective’ measures taken by companies such as Apple.

Alphabet-owned Google said today (16 February) that it is working on new measures to address ad-related data privacy on Android smartphones and curtail tracking across apps.

It promised to not make changes as “blunt” as other moves, such as those recently taken by Apple

Future Human

Last April, Apple introduced new privacy updates on iOS that require companies reliant on ad tracking to explicitly ask for user consent before collecting their data. By late 2021, it was estimated that the update cost Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube nearly $10bn in revenue.

Now Google is bringing its Privacy Sandbox initiative to Android to develop new privacy restrictions for its own system.

This will involve limiting the sharing of user data with third parties and operating without cross-app identifiers for advertising. The company also said it would explore tech that reduces the potential for covert data collection.

Anthony Chavez, Google VP of product management, claimed in a blog post that “blunt” approaches being taken by other platforms are proving “ineffective” and can “lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses”. He didn’t specifically name Apple in the post.

“Our goal with the Privacy Sandbox on Android is to develop effective and privacy enhancing advertising solutions, where users know their information is protected, and developers and businesses have the tools to succeed on mobile,” he wrote.

While Google is designing and testing the new tools, it said that existing ad tracking features would stay in place for at least two years and it “will provide substantial notice ahead of any future changes”.

Meta said in its most recent earnings call that privacy changes by Apple has adversely impacted its ad business. The company has been very vocal in its criticism of Apple’s privacy changes and may be more supportive of Google’s plans.

Google’s move is part of its larger Privacy Sandbox initiative to create technologies that both protect user privacy and give companies and developers tools for advertising.

One of the main areas of focus has been a third-party cookie ban in Chrome, which was intended to come into effect this year but was pushed back to 2023. Last month, the Privacy Sandbox proposed a new interest-based advertising tool to replace third-party cookies.

Google recently agreed to a number of legally binding commitments with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority relating to the development of the Privacy Sandbox. These include a more transparent process, including engagement with third parties and publishing test results, while the competition watchdog said last week it would continue to keep a “close eye” on Google.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com