Google has long been synonymous with targeted advertising, which requires the company to track you. However, a wave of change is coming, although you should not expect something as dramatic as Apple did last year.
Google, everybody’s online search engine, has apparently got tired of being seen as a snooper and privacy invader. It has built a lucrative business around tracking users of its free operating system, Android, and using their data to serve up personalized adverts. Apparently inspired by its rival, Apple, the company is now bringing Privacy Sandbox from its Chrome OS to Android.
However, unlike the drastic action taken by Apple, Google plans to work with developers to create a method that is not going to be a blanket approach.
Apple came out with its App Tracking Transparency feature that made apps ask the user whether they wanted to be tracked or not. This move has had financial implications for platforms that are free to use but rely on targeted advertising to earn revenue. These include Facebook, Snapchat, etc., with the former anticipating to lose $10 billion in revenue.
Apple can afford to make these privacy changes as it makes most of its money from actual hardware sales, but its developers took a hit, with a reported 15 to 20 percent drop in advertising revenue. However, this is what Google is trying to avoid with its new privacy policies. Its own developers will be more affected because more of its developers depend on advert revenues due to the prevalence of the free-app model.
Google wants to build on the existing Privacy Sandbox feature to create an open standard for the industry to adopt. According to Anthony Chavez, Google’s VP of Android Security and Privacy, this initiative is a multi-year effort. It is currently reviewing initial design proposals and taking feedback from developers on how to crack the balance between ensuring user privacy and not crippling mobile advertising.
The goal is to involve the developers in fashioning a way to show personalized ads while being privacy-respectful and collating reports on campaign performances.
For the rest of the year, Google will tweak its designs for advertisement-based tracking based on the feedback it receives. It will release several developer previews before launching a beta towards the end of the year. This testing is independent of Android’s yearly update cycle. Google will commence more extensive testing in 2023.
Also, Google has committed to supporting the existing ads platform for at least two years, so developers need not fear their source of income is evaporating immediately. However, developers can expect to be mandated to comply with the new privacy rules.
Google has already convinced some big-time developers to join this effort, including Snap Inc., Activision Blizzard, which Microsoft is buying for $68.7 billion, Rovio, Duolingo, and seven others.
There is evidently a lot to do here before Google achieves its vision because even the Privacy Sandbox it wants to work from has come under scrutiny from regulators in the UK and EU.