Google has expanded plans to limit data tracking on its Chrome browser by extending that coverage to apps running on Android devices.
The Privacy Sandbox project aims to limit the amount of user data that advertisers can gather from browsing and app usage.
But details are scant, and it's not happening just yet.
Google will begin by allowing developers to review initial design proposals and share feedback. Over the year, Google plans to release developer previews, with a beta being available by the end of the year.
And it's clear that Google is worried that by making changes too quickly, it could upend its app ecosystem.
"Currently over 90 percent of the apps on Google Play are free," writes Anthony Chavez, VP of Product Management, Android Security & Privacy at Google, "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."
It seems that right out of the gate, Google is worried that making apps more private could scare off developers from making free apps (although where they might go is unclear).
"We know this initiative needs input from across the industry in order to succeed. We've already heard from many partners about their interest in working together to improve ads privacy on Android, and invite more organizations to participate."
Google also took the opportunity to take a pop at Apple at its App Tracking Transparency feature:
"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."
One of those businesses is Meta (Facebook), which estimates the changes that Apple made will cost it $10 billion this year alone.
Problem is, Apple's path has been effective for the people that matter -- the users. And users, when given a choice as to whether they want apps to track them or not, have overwhelmingly chosen to retain their privacy. Apple also paved the way for greater transparency by forcing app developers to outline how data collected by apps would be used.
It's clear that Google feels it needs to make some positive sounds with regards to privacy, but it's also clear that simply handing the reigns of control to users isn't what Google wants to do, and instead, the company wants to come up with a solution that's more within its control.
What does this mean for users? It means that if you want privacy on a mobile device, the choice is clear -- you should be ditching Android and buying an iPhone.