Google is exploring an Anti-Tracking feature for Android, after Apple’s revelation

According to a report first released by Bloomberg, Google is considering developing an Android alternative to Apple Inc.’s new anti-tracking feature, signalling towards an acceptance of user privacy by the internet industry.

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The increasing pressure on large tech companies to favour user privacy is showing as the search giant is discussing how it can limit data collection and cross-app tracking on the Android OS. However, Google is planning to do it in a less stringent way than Apple’s solution.

Google is trying to find the right balance between the rising demands of privacy-conscious consumers with advertisers and developers’ financial needs. Similar to how the Alphabet Inc. unit is slowly developing a new privacy standard for web browsing called the Privacy Sandbox, it seeks input from its stakeholders.

Google has a vested interest in helping partners to continue generating revenue by targeting ads to Android device users as there have been investments of more than $100 billion in annual digital ad sales.

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“We’re always looking for ways to work with developers to raise the bar on privacy while enabling a healthy, ad-supported app ecosystem,” a Google spokesman said in a statement.

In a forthcoming software update, iOS 14.5, Apple has added quite a lot of new features, one of them being App Tracking Transparency. The tool asks the consumer for their permission to let apps collect data about them across other apps and websites. The digital advertising industry has been shaken by this move. Facebook and other companies have complained the feature will create a loss of revenue as it will limit their ability to effectively serve personalized ads.

According to Bloomberg, a Google solution is likely to be less strict, and the exploration into an Android alternative to Apple’s feature is still in the early stages. Google offers a framework for developers on the iPhone to monetize their apps using Google ads. In a recent blog post, Google said Apple’s ad-tracking update means developers “may see a significant impact” on their ad revenue.

To get the balance between keeping advertisers happy while improving privacy, the discussions around Google’s Android solution indicate that it could be similar to the Privacy Sandbox, its planned Chrome web browser changes. The company said in 2020 that it intended to phase out third-party cookies in Chrome within two years and reiterated the plan earlier this year. Cookies are a way for websites to track consumers of the web to serve them more personalized ads.

Privacy Sandbox allows some ad targeting with less-specific data collection. According to Bloomberg, “As part of that solution, the company has developed a technology called Federated Learning of Cohorts that lets advertisers target groups of people with similar interests rather than individuals. Google is likely to take a similar approach with Android.”

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