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Google could follow Apple with new tracking and data crackdown on Android

The next major version of Android may come with new safeguards on the ability of third-party apps to track users across the web, according to a new report.

Bloomberg sources say Google is looking to follow Apple’s lead by seeking to limit the data third-party apps can collect and how easy it is for those apps to cross-track users on the best Android phones.

The people familiar with the plans say Google’s approach will be less stringent than Apple’s, which has drawn significant criticism from affected parties like Facebook, who fear the addition may damage its lucrative targeted advertising business.

For Google, who also knows a thing or two about targeted advertising, the feature may look to provide more of a balance between the data privacy concerns of its vast Android user base and the needs of developers and advertisers. Given Google’s business model is largely geared towards selling ads, we’d definitely expect a lighter touch than Apple’s no-nonsense strategy.

In a statement issued to Trusted Reviews, a Google spokesperson did not confirm changes were on the way, but said: “We’re always looking for ways to work with developers to raise the bar on privacy while enabling a healthy, ad-supported app ecosystem.”  

Apple’s current efforts are two-fold. Firstly it is adding so-called nutrition labels to App Store listings, which explains to users what data is being collected by the app and for what purposes.

Secondly, its App Tracking Transparency feature, which is set to launch with iOS 14.5 in the next few weeks, will give users the opportunity to opt-in to cross-app ad tracking or request the company in question does not engage in the practice.

Interestingly, Google is yet to fully comply with Apple’s new rules, perhaps as it seeks to update its iOS apps and the data they collect.

This may be an interesting story in the next few months that could not only upend online advertising as we know it, but could see Google take a more serious, Apple-like stance when it comes to user privacy. Apple has often sought moral high ground over rivals by claiming customer data has no part in its business model as a hardware and services company.

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