Google’s New Android Privacy Plan Doesn’t Seem to Be All That Private

by - – Google says it aims to make Android a more private piece of hardware sometime within the next two years. Consider us skeptics. The strangest thing about our “privacy,” at least as far as our electronics are concerned, is that how you interpret the term is highly correlated with your financial situation. Just ask Google about it.

Many of the terminology used by politicians, such as “privacy abuses” and “surveillance,” are couched in broad, general terms that are devoid of specifics and heavy on scare quotes.

If you mention those terms to businesspeople in Silicon Valley, though, you will almost certainly hear them referred to as “costs and benefits.” Surveillance, on the one hand, is certainly lucrative. Privacy, on the other hand, is a lucrative business: We spend billions of dollars each year on privacy-related technology, and the god-knows-how-many browsers and applications that have made “privacy” their major selling point have seen consumers flock to them.

As a result, tech firms have begun to utilize words like “the future is private” when talking about their companies, and Tim Cook has used a big billboard to effectively proclaim that the iPhone equals privacy. However, in these instances, “private” typically refers to “private enough.” The primary reason why Apple tolerates certain privacy violations while Facebook continues to be, well, Facebook, is that it is required by the company’s bottom line. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the privacy pledges made by a digital giant aren’t about you or your safety. It’s all about toeing the line between monitoring and security that generates the greatest revenue for them.

As a result, when Google announced on Wednesday that it will be introducing Apple-style tracking limits to its Android phones, my reaction was more “hmmmm,” given that Google’s $150 billion ad business relies on following consumers nearly everywhere.

The Google Advertising ID (or GAID for short) is a device-specific identifier baked into the hardware that Google promises will be phased away over the next two years in favor of a privacy-protecting replacement designed as part of its Privacy Sandbox program.

Google also aims to “limit user data sharing with third parties” and “reduce the possibilities for covert data collection,” as Apple did with previous iOS versions. The modification allowed iPhone users to disable third-party monitoring across applications, which they did. Apple’s upgrades might cost Meta $10 billion this year, according to a recent conference call. It all seems like a privacy gain, right?

No way, says Google. “Other platforms have taken a different approach to advertisements privacy,” the release says, but not Apple. “Bluntly” limiting developers and advertising was deemed “ineffective” by Google. It also provided a link to a research saying Apple’s upgrades provide “an appearance of privacy” and not much else (though the $10 billion in lost earnings shows it’s at least somewhat relevant).

Google’s Privacy Sandbox statement also shows the boundaries of its privacy-protecting enhancements: Ads will be “more private” and “privacy enhancing,” but “free content and services will not be jeopardized.” Don’t worry, Mark, the money will keep coming.

Meta, on the other hand, looked entirely on board with Google’s plans. Google’s collaborative approach with industry organizations was “encouraging,” said Google advertisements VP Graham Mudd.

Given Mudd’s prior melancholy blog articles on the effects Apple’s privacy policies had on his firm, his optimism should be a warning to us all. Google may allow us to disable Android monitoring in the future, but not at the price of anyone’s company.