In a widely foreseen move, Google has announced plans to restrict cross-app tracking and introduce other privacy measures on Android phones. This was framed as a multi-year effort to be pursued through the Privacy Sandbox on Android. Apple last year made cross-app tracking an opt-in for users on a per-app basis. Details of how Google will limit tracking have yet to emerge. This comes as bad news for Meta in particular, which attributed a big revenue hit to Apple’s restrictions.
Google also said it would limit the sharing of data with third parties and explore technologies that would block covert data collection. The reason for the Sandbox approach, said Google, is to develop privacy-safe alternatives for advertisers. This is in preference to the “blunt” approach of simply restricting technologies advertisers already use.
Why we care. There’s no obvious downside for Google in following Apple’s lead, although it’s typical of Google that it leans towards prolonged consultation rather than changing the rules by fiat. Expect the Android Privacy Sandbox to get into the kind of granular discussions that produced FLoC and then Topics.
As for Facebook, as users of its mobile app continue to opt out of cross-app tracking on the iPhone and seem likely soon to be able to do the same on Android, its audiences are surely bound to decline in value if it can only observe behavior and interests within its own ecosystem.
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