In the weird and not-so-wonderful world of big tech, privacy has been the talking point for a hot minute. In the past few weeks alone, we’ve seen Meta’s stock price tank thanks to Apple’s privacy changes and Google’s flip-flop from FLoC to Topics API as its third-party cookie replacement. Now, it appears Google is committed to following in the footsteps of Apple – specifically, the latter’s App Tracking Transparency feature, the very same tech that set Meta in a spin.
But Google promises things will be different. On Wednesday, the company announced plans to work on privacy measures that will limit data sharing on smartphones running on Android. It also swore to be less disruptive than Apple was when it made similar moves last year. In the announcement, Google said,
We realize that other platforms have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers. We believe that – without first providing a privacy-preserving alternative path – such approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses.”
While a timeline has yet to be given, Google said existing technologies would be supported for at least the next two years – which means Android users won’t be seeing a popup asking for permission to be tracked anytime soon.
Even with the long wait, the changes will likely still affect major firms that rely on tracking users’ data – we’ve seen this firsthand with the Apple-Meta misfortune. But Meta, which fought against Apple’s sudden changes, has publicly voiced support for the way Google is approaching privacy-first measures. Graham Mudd, Facebook’s VP of product marketing, ads and business, on Twitter called it “encouraging” to see Google’s “long-term, collaborative approach to privacy-protective personalized advertising.”
Google’s decision to opt for a more privacy-minded approach is likely a reaction not only to Apple’s move but also to privacy pundits and regulators who have had the search giant under a microscope for many months. This new commitment to privacy-minded practices could be just the thing to help Google sidestep the regulatory issues that have plagued it – but the company has still released no information about how this new model could look.
Either way, with users becoming more protective of their personal data, and many moving to more scrupulous search alternatives, this could be what keeps Google at the top of the food chain (if these changes truly do put users above profits, of course). Let the countdown to 2024 begin.
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