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  • Chris Bratton - Tech Journalist

Google moves to make Android apps more private where Apple leads: App data tracking will be limited

The online advertising industry is a lucrative revenue-generating market for tech platforms, and they utilise user devices directly for more personalised ads. We are not sure who sells data to whom, but certainly, product advertisements make it to us nevertheless. Personalised ads may sound brilliant as you'll be only shown advertisements related to your interest, but advertisements as a whole can be irritating.

Apple is way ahead of the most consumed smartphone operating system Android in this regard by several feet. After taking suitable measures and regulations kicking in, Google is gearing more focus towards the advertisement dilemma.

Large corporations such as Meta, whose 97 per cent yearly revenue comes from advertisement, may get worse cheques in the coming days. Alphabet Inc. parent company of the two most significant search engines globally, Google & YouTube, will also be affected. But since they are under the umbrella of the regulation maker, the casualty may not be as severe as third parties.

An announcement made on February 16 by the VP of Product Management, Android Security & Privacy team, Anthony Chavez, revealed interesting insights on the security lift on the popular smartphone OS. The New Privacy Sandbox will cover many features and prioritize data collection and protection.

According to Google, over 90 per cent of Android apps are free, and they serve valuable content to billions of users. As they are free, advertising plays a critical role in sustaining a steady income flow without directly taking money from users. Google's advertising ID was developed for the exclusive feature to give users more control over the data collected off of them and what they see.

The announcement came with a multi-year initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android. The goal here is simple; giving users better privacy without hurting the advertisement economy. On the other hand, Google's "Chrome browser has been extended to cover apps on its Android-based smartphones."

Apple seems to be the first one of its kind to bring out forceful features to terminate data collection abilities without concern. Firms like Meta, which rely heavily on advertising, may get a blow. Of course, the forced ads pushed by Meta on several of their products received criticism.

Developers are now forced to comply with the advertisement permission tracking feature. According to Meta, Apple's change of giving users more control of data collection policy cost the company $10 billion (£7.3 bn) in just one year. Things are about to worsen as 85 per cent of the smartphones used worldwide run on Android.

The $10 billion wiped off from Apple ecosystem advertisement revenue also took away $232 billion from the company's market share. It came to just under $600 billion from a trillion-dollar valuation company. It also took down billions from the personal worth of CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Even though Apple started the initial harm to Meta's advertisement economy, the same move from Google seems to be getting some support from Meta as Google's privacy tweaks work on a far broader scale.

VP of Facebook's product marketing, ads, and business Graham Mudd said, "It is encouraging to see this long-term, collaborative approach to privacy-protected personalised advertising from Google," and they are looking forward to "work with them and the industry on privacy-enhancing tech through industry groups."

Apple's App Tracking Transparency received criticism not only from Meta but also other similar companies as it reduces targeting capabilities, limiting advertisers from "accessing an iPhone user identifier." Even Google criticised the move but did not name the company directly. Following the same path, Google will be leading a privacy-preserving alternative route. "Such approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses."

The Privacy Sandbox on Android has a similar mission to Apple's App Tracking Transparency but broader scale. Of course, regulations around it might change to give advertisers a chance for fair bidding as the advertising industry is too vast to ignore.


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