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Google plans privacy change, echoes Apple shift that hit Facebook ad business

Google said it will continue to support the current system for the next two years while it develops privacy-focused replacements for its current device tracking tech.
A woman walks near a Google Corporate Office on April 13, 2021 in New York.
A woman walks near a Google Corporate Office on April 13, 2021 in New York.John Smith / VIEWpress
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Google on Wednesday announced it’s adopting new privacy restrictions that will cut tracking across apps on its Android devices, following a similar move made by Apple last year that upended several firms’ advertising practices.

Google said it’s developing new privacy-focused replacements for its advertising ID, a unique string of characters that identifies the user’s device. The digital IDs in smartphones often help ad-tech companies track and share information about consumers.

The changes could affect big companies that have relied on tracking users across apps, like Facebook parent Meta. Apple’s adjustments hit Meta particularly hard, for example. Meta said earlier this month Apple’s privacy changes will decrease the social media company’s sales this year by about $10 billion. That news contributed to wiping $232 billion from the company’s market cap in a single day, eventually pushing the total below $600 billion. Last June, Meta was worth more than $1 trillion.

But while Meta fought against Apple’s changes, it voiced support for the way Google plans to implement its privacy tweaks.

″[It is] encouraging to see this long-term, collaborative approach to privacy-protective personalized advertising from Google,” Graham Mudd, vice president of product marketing, ads and business at Facebook said on Twitter. “We look forward to continued work with them and the industry on privacy-enhancing tech through industry groups.”

Google said it will continue to support the current identifiers for the next two years, which means other companies have time to implement changes.

Apple was criticized by Facebook and other companies for rolling out its App Tracking Transparency feature, which reduces targeting capabilities by limiting advertisers from accessing an iPhone user identifier. With that change, users were given a pop-up window that let them block apps from tracking their data for advertising purposes.

Google criticized Apple’s approach in its blog post without naming the company.

″​​We realize that other platforms have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers,” Google Android vice president of product management, security and privacy, Anthony Chavez, wrote in the blog post. “We believe that — without first providing a privacy-preserving alternative path — such approaches can be ineffective and lead to worse outcomes for user privacy and developer businesses.”

Focusing on privacy practices could help the tech giant get ahead of regulatory issues as lawmakers and consumers become more aware and concerned of their personal data. The company said it would work closely with regulators.