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Android follows Apple with new privacy controls but there's one key difference

Android 12 4
Android 12 4 (Image credit: Harish Jonnalagadda / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Android is getting new privacy controls for advertising, much like iOS.
  • Google says new measures will help create a more private solution to advertising by limiting the sharing of third-party data and cross-app identifiers.
  • It says that other platforms have taken a blunt approach that can be ineffective and worse for privacy and developers.

Google has today announced its own new Privacy Sandbox initiative for Android that it says will make using its platform more private, limiting the sharing of third-party data and cross-app tracking.

In a blog post Wednesday Google wrote:

Today, we're announcing a multi-year initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android, with the goal of introducing new, more private advertising solutions. Specifically, these solutions will limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID. We're also exploring technologies that reduce the potential for covert data collection, including safer ways for apps to integrate with advertising SDKs.

In what might be considered a swipe at Apple, Google says that it recognizes that "other platforms have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers" but says that this approach without a privacy-preserving alternative "can be ineffective" leading to worse outcomes for both privacy and developer business. It says the goal of the new Privacy Sandbox is to "develop effective and privacy-enhancing advertising solutions, where users know their information is protected, and developers and businesses have the tools to succeed on mobile."

Apple made similar third-party changes in iOS 14 last year and continues to tout privacy as one of its best iPhone features in adverts and marketing. However, the move did not come without criticism as large companies that rely on advertising like Meta (Facebook) say it could seriously harm their ad business. Indeed, Facebook says it is set to lose out on some $10 billion in revenue as a result of Apple's measures.

In a key turn away from Apple's approach, Google appears to have committed to providing an alternative solution that will allow advertising and tracking in some form across its mobile platform. It is also asking developers for feedback and promised a beta release of the feature by the end of the year. Google also makes it clear, unlike Apple, that it plans to consult with industry stakeholders including advertisers, a stark contrast to Apple's customer-first (and perhaps only) focus.

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.