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Google Considering Anti-Tracking Feature on Android

But it will be less stringent relative to Apple's incoming anti-tracking feature in iOS 14.5


Apple’s anti-tracking feature seems to be the go-to standard in the OS world right now. The feature announced during the company’s first virtual WWDC event in June 2020 escalated Apple’s privacy protections against apps that track users for financial gain.

Google is reportedly exploring a similar feature, according to a Bloomberg report. The need for such a feature indicates the increasing privacy-consciousness among consumers. The report says Google is mulling ways to clamp down on data collection and cross-app tracking on Android.

Google is aware of the repercussions of such a feature to its business, which heavily depends on tracking and targeting users with personalized ads. In Q4, 2020, advertising contributed $46.20 billion, up 22% YoY, to Google’s balance sheet, while YouTube Ads added $6.89 billion to the books, up 46% YoY.

As such, it can be hurtful to Google itself to go all-in to implement exact stringent measures like Apple. The report says Google’s anti-tracking feature will be less stringent relative to Apple’s. The company will try to find the sweet spot between addressing rising demands of privacy among consumers and ensuring the business continues as usual to app developers and advertisers.

Responding to the report, a company spokesman said, “We’re always looking for ways to work with developers to raise the bar on privacy while enabling a healthy, ad-supported app ecosystem.”

Apple’s incoming stringent anti-tracking feature is expected to shake the advertising industry on iOS and iPad OS. Starting with the incoming iOS 14.5, which should be available on iPhones and iPads soon, Apple will require apps to ask users for permission to track them.

It’s a privacy win for consumers, but it is expected to hurt the advertising industry. In practice, users should expect to see more ads that are less relevant to them, which hurts advertisers and app developers.

Google’s anti-tracking feature will reportedly be less stringent – to the extent that it won’t give users the liberty to choose whether to opt into tracking via prompt.

Although the feature is still in the early development stages, it will likely be similar to Privacy Sandbox, an incoming Google Chrome feature, allowing less intrusive data collection.

Facebook, among other companies in the space, has raised complaints about Apple’s anti-tracking feature.

Google warned developers “may see a significant impact” as a result, and Facebook, in December, said it will have a “harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.”

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Alvin Wanjala

Alvin is a freelance tech journalist. Talk to me via email at alvinwanjala[at]pm[dot]me

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