The phrase “hell has frozen over” probably no longer has the same impact these days, especially in tech circles. Microsoft has professed its love for Linux, Apple has apps for Android, Jeff Bezos has stepped down as Amazon CEO, and Google is looking into reducing user tracking activities on Android. The latter is, at least, the latest insider rumor about the company that has built an empire out of advertising and tracking. And while the change may be inspired by Apple’s move, it might not have the same tooth.
Apple’s upcoming changes to its privacy policies on iOS definitely sent ripples throughout the mobile advertising industry. Facebook was the one that made the most noise about it but advertisers, in general, have bemoaned the effects the new requirements will have on the effectiveness of personalized ads and, more importantly, their revenue. Google itself warned users of its advertising platform about possible repercussions, making this leak sound a bit surprising and too good to be true.
Google may have seen the positive reception that Apple got for its privacy changes or it has realized the benefits of espousing user privacy, especially if it will help get authorities off its back. According to insider sources, the company is now investigating ways it could implement some sort of anti-tracking feature on Android, but it won’t be as simple or as strict as what Apple has. Because unlike Apple, however, Google does have some vested interest in helping advertisers and developers track users.
Bloomberg theorizes that Google may implement something similar to what it is doing on Chrome. It is banning third-party cross-site tracking cookies but is also giving site owners and advertisers alternative tools to collect user data but at a smaller volume. On the Web, Google is also pushing for a standard for ads that do away with obtrusive and harmful behavior in order to establish trust for well-behaved ads.
Google definitely has to do a delicate balancing act between protecting user privacy and keeping its core advertising business afloat. Its solution might be less restrictive than Apple’s privacy policies but it remains to be seen if it will be effective at all in the long run.