Google Plans To Add Greater Privacy To Android Apps

Google has expanded its strategy to limit data tracking on its Chrome browser to include apps on its Android-based smartphones.

Its Privacy Sandbox project tries to limit the amount of data that advertisers can collect from users.

Rival Before tracking users, Apple now requires app developers to obtain their permission.

The announcement will come as a shock to companies like Meta, which rely on their code being embedded in apps to track customer behavior.

Apple’s changes, according to Meta, will cost the company $10 billion this year. Around 85 percent of smartphone users worldwide utilize Google’s Android operating system.

Third-party cookies, which target advertisements based on people’s surfing history, will be phased out of Google’s Chrome browser by 2023.

Google announced in a blog post that it is now expanding its Privacy Sandbox to Android apps and is exploring methods to minimize data sharing and “run without cross-app identifiers, notably advertising ID.”

Apps collect information using these identifiers, which are linked to cellphones. Google said it will keep them in place for at least two years while it works on a new approach “with the industry.”

“We’re also exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDK (software developer kits),” it added.

The IT powerhouse did not specify how it intends to accomplish this.

In April of last year, Apple ruled that app developers must explicitly seek consumers for permission to use IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers). According to data from advertising firm Flurry Analytics, which was disclosed by Apple, US customers choose to opt-out of monitoring 96 per cent of the time.

While it did not Apple, Google’s blog referred instead to “other platforms” which it claimed, “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,” it added.

Unlike Apple, however, Google depends on revenues it generates from advertising.

Google’s efforts to provide third-party cookie replacements for its Chrome browser haven’t gone altogether smoothly.

The group’s first idea, Federated Learning of Cohorts (Floc), was panned by privacy advocates and advertising alike.

Floc intended to hide users’ true identities by grouping them with people who had similar browsing habits.

Topics, the replacement, was recently launched and intends to group users into topic clusters chosen from over 350 subcategories such as fitness or tourism. Topics will display three of their prior three weeks’ preferences to the site and its advertising partners when a user visits a website.  

Google’s transition to more privacy-focused systems is currently being looked into by the Competitions Market Authority which noted about the plans of the company to expand them: “We will continue to monitor this closely and engage with Google on the nature and detail of its proposals.”

According to a report conducted by Apple last year, the average app has at least six third-party trackers that exist exclusively to collect and distribute online data.

According to research firm Cracked Lab, any one data broker might have data on up to 700 million consumers.

Regulators like the Information Commissioner’s Office in the United Kingdom are looking into the advertising ecosystem, particularly the method ads are sold – known as real-time bidding – which displays billions of online ads on websites and applications every day.

(Adapted from CBSNews.com)

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