Google announced plans Wednesday to limit ad tracking on its Android operating system, a sensitive privacy issue that rival Apple has already moved to curtail on its iPhones. Google announced a multi-year plan to develop Privacy Sandbox on Android with the aim of introducing more private advertising solutions. However, Google said it would keep alive for at least two years a tracking technology on its Android phones that is relied upon by advertisers, easing speculation about its plans after Apple frustrated the ad industry by restricting a similar tool.
Google said in a blog post that it would give "substantial notice" before axing what is known as AdId. But it will immediately begin seeking feedback on its proposed alternatives, which Google said aim to better protect users' privacy and curb covert surveillance. Google said that its Privacy Sandbox on Android provides a clear path to improve user privacy without putting access to free content and services at risk.
"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," said Google.
The search giant added that it plans to launch a Privacy Sandbox beta by year-end and developers were invited to view its initial proposals and share feedback on the Android developer site.
Advertisers, app makers, and hundreds of small ad tech companies had expected changes to AdId after Apple last April forced software makers to seek user permission to track behavior across multiple apps through its comparable tool, called IDFA.
Facebook owner Meta Platforms said this month it expects to lose $10 billion in ad sales this year due to Apple's change, one of a number of companies that have reported hits from the move. IDFA and AdId help in determining relevant ads and identifying subsequent purchases. But as users declined tracking, advertisers pared spending.
Google and Apple, which make the dueling operating systems used in most of the world's smartphones and tablets, have faced pressure over the past few years from regulators and new laws to give users greater control over the data apps collect.
Google said it would work with app makers such as Snap and Activision Blizzard to design tools that support targeting ads and logging clicks while limiting access to personal information. An earlier move by Google to eliminate tracking technology in its Chrome browser by the end of 2023 led some of the company's ad tech rivals to complain to competition authorities.
Last week, Google finalised a deal to have the UK antitrust regulator monitor the Chrome project. Google said it would apply the agreement's principles, including treating itself the same as any rival, to the Android work.
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