Google Promises Less Disruptive Privacy Changes for Mobile

Google is working on measures to protect consumer privacy by limiting data sharing from Android OS smartphones. The Alphabet-owned company says its changes will not be as disruptive as steps taken last year by Apple, which revamped its iOS iPhone software so users were required to grant permission for ad tracking. The resulting volume of users who blocked tracking had a profoundly negative effect on companies that rely on targeted advertising. Google didn’t indicate when the changes will roll out, but did say it will support existing operating systems for two more years.

Meta Platforms — which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — told analysts that Apple’s privacy changes will result in an estimated $10 billion in lost advertising revenue for the social media company this year.

Google Android division vice president Anthony Chavez told The New York Times “in an interview before the announcement that it was too early to gauge the potential impact from Google’s changes, which are meant to limit the sharing of data across apps and with third parties. But he emphasized that the company’s goal was to find a more private option for users while also allowing developers to continue to make advertising revenue.”

Adjustments by Google and Apple “are significant because digital advertising based on the accumulation of data about users has underpinned the Internet for the last 20 years,” writes NYT, noting that model has been under pressure as “users have grown more suspicious about far-reaching data collection” and politicians worldwide have been on the offensive to rein in tech giants.

Statista estimates 7.26 billion people globally will have smartphones this year, making the world’s two largest providers of mobile OS — Apple and Google — powerful gatekeepers between advertisers and billions of consumers.

Google and Apple “have different motives” in how they approach consumer privacy, Mobile Dev Memo analyst Eric Seufert told The Wall Street Journal. “Apple sells hardware, takes a cut of revenue from apps running on its devices, and offers keyword-search advertising in its App Store,” explains WSJ. “Google, among its various advertising offerings, operates an in-app advertising system, called AdMob,” which helped drive Google Network ad revenue up by almost 40 percent last year, to $31.7 billion.

“It kind of highlights the difference in approach between an advertising company, which Google is, and more of a content platform company, which Apple is,” Seufert told WSJ, noting, “Google’s not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, because it runs an ad network.”