Google plans to change Android app tracking in a bid to improve user privacy

Originally Posted: Feb 16 22 12:29 PM ET

By Clare Duffy, CNN Business (CNN) — Google plans to roll out new privacy measures that will remove the ability to track users across apps on Android devices, potentially disrupting digital

Google announced Wednesday that it is launching a multi-year effort to create privacy-focused advertising solutions that will limit the sharing of user data with third parties. These solutions will work without the individual identifiers that allow developers to track user activity across various mobile apps and allow them to create advertisements targeted to a user’s behavior and interests. Google said it was also exploring technologies that would reduce the possibility of a user’s data being collected without their knowledge.

The announcement — which comes as Google and other Big Tech companies face increasing regulatory scrutiny over privacy concerns and other issues — was light on specific details about how the new system will work. . But that was enough to piss off some investors in companies dependent on targeted digital advertising. Shares of Facebook parents Meta, Snap, Twitter and Pinterest all fell in early trading Wednesday after the announcement.

Some of these companies have already taken a financial hit in recent months after Apple implemented changes in its iOS 14.5 update last spring in an effort to give users greater privacy and control over their data. The change – which gives users the ability to opt out of having apps track their behavior – contributed to a more than $200 billion drop in market value for Meta after it reported results earlier this month. Meta said the app tracking change is expected to impact its bottom line by $10 billion this year.

However, Google noted that it plans to work with developers to build the new system and said, without naming Apple, that it won’t take the same “hard-core” opt-out approach the iPhone maker has taken, which might reassure app companies and advertisers.

“We believe that – without first providing an alternative privacy-preserving path – such approaches can be inefficient and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and development companies,” said Anthony Chavez, vice president of the product management for Android security and privacy. blog post.

Chavez also noted that Google plans to continue supporting its existing tracking system for at least two years and will provide “substantial advice” to the industry on how the changes will work.

Asked about Google’s announcement and its potential impact on Meta’s business, a spokesperson for the social media company pointed to a Tweeter by Dennis Buchheim, vice president of the company’s advertising ecosystem. “Encouraging to see this collaborative, long-term approach to Google’s privacy-protecting personalized advertising,” Buchheim said of Wednesday’s announcement.

Google’s announcement comes as the company also works to replace third-party cookies, which can be used to track user behavior across the web, with a more privacy-focused solution on its Chrome browser. The effort, which was originally slated to roll out this year, has run into some difficulty as Google tries to balance input from advertisers and privacy experts.

It also comes as European regulators crack down on Big Tech companies’ data privacy practices and US regulators and lawmakers are increasingly concerned that dominant online giants prefer their own products and services over their own. platforms. Google said it pledged not to prioritize its own products or advertising sites with its privacy changes on the web, and would do the same on Android.

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