Google takes on Apple’s “blunt”, “ineffective” privacy approach

Anthony Chavez, VP, Product Management, Android Security & Privacy at Google:

Currently over 90% of the apps on Google Play are free, providing access to valuable content and services to billions of users. Digital advertising plays a key role in making this possible. But in order to ensure a healthy app ecosystem — benefiting users, developers and businesses — the industry must continue to evolve how digital advertising works to improve user privacy.

Can’t help but be reminded of the quote, “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

The quote is often attributed to Steve Jobs, but I believe the original lies here.

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.

From the section titled, “Blunt approaches are proving ineffective”:

We realize that other platforms have taken a different approach to ads privacy, bluntly restricting existing technologies used by developers and advertisers. 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.

Seems pretty clear that Chavez is referring to Apple here. Blunt? Yes. Ineffective? Hardly. Just ask Facebook.

Google’s “ineffective” claim comes from this study, with the title “Effectiveness of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency”. Feel free to read it, but you might first click through to the company page, where they hawk a pair of privacy products of their own: Firewall and Secure Tunnel VPN. Free and open source, but with some in-app purchases:

  • One Month of Lockdown VPN — $8.99
  • One Year of Lockdown VPN — $59.99
  • One Month of Lockdown VPN Pro — $11.99
  • One Year of Lockdown VPN Pro — $99.99

Not judging the products (I haven’t used them), but feels a little disingenuous for Google to base their “ineffective” claim on a study so closely tied to an app designed to capitalize on that claimed ineffectiveness.

While we design, build and test these new solutions, we plan to support existing ads platform features for at least two years, and we intend to provide substantial notice ahead of any future changes.

So no privacy for at least two years. Got it.