Google Reveals What Personal Data Chrome and Its Apps Collect on You in 2021
DuckDuckgo, a privacy-centered search engine, called out its strong rival Google to spying on users after the tech giant updated its flagship app to reveal the exact amount and kind of data it collects from users for marketing and personalization purposes.
The company wrote in a tweet that “After months of stalling, Google finally revealed how much personal data they collect in Chrome and the Google app. No wonder they wanted to hide it. Spying on users has nothing to do with building a great web browser or search engine.”
It all started when the privacy nutrition labels (part of a new policy) went into effect in December 2020, making it necessary for app developers to spell out their information collection practices and help their users understand how their personal data is being used.
The implication from DuckDuckGo comes as Google has constantly been adding app privacy labels to iOS apps in the last several months in conformity with Apple’s App Store policies. Still, in the past few weeks, it caused most of its app to run without being updating, providing strength to theories that because of Apple’s enforcement, the company had halted iOS app updates.
In recent years, Apple has been incorporation a series of privacy protections like “privacy label” into its products, while at the same time claiming itself as a more secure and private alternative to other platforms like Google and Facebook.
The privacy labels, starting with iOS 14, make it compulsory for the first-party and third-party apps to reveal what data they collect from to their users and get users’ consent before collecting information. The goal is to condense the data collection practices of apps in a user-friendly and easy-to-understand format without diving deep into details about what that information is being used for.
Last week, Apple updated its privacy website with the latest “Labels” section that explains the privacy labels for all of Apple’s apps together in a single place, thus making it convenient for users to understand how Apple apps utilize their private data.
An upcoming privacy update iOS 14.5, is another bigger deal that will also require apps to get user’s permission before tracking them on other apps and sites with the aid of advertising identifier of device as known as IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) as a part of ATT (App Tracking Transparency).
Created in 2012 by Apple, the IDFA has been used by companies, brands, and digital marketers to keep track of visitors on various apps to display tailored ads and monitor the performance of their ad campaigns.
For instance, if you are randomly scrolling through your Instagram feeds and see an electric toothbrush ad. You don’t click the advertisement, but instead, you search on Google for the same electric toothbrush you saw on Instagram and purchase it from an online store. After the purchase is made, the vendor records that user’s IDFA and shares it with Facebook, which can then determine whether the ID of the user who bought the product corresponds to the user who saw the smart toothbrush ad.
According to pCloud, a cloud storage company, more than 80% of apps use the collected user data to promote their own products in the app and show ads on other platforms, while over 52% of apps share the user information with third-parties.
With the latest changes, it has become nearly impossible for apps and third-parties to monitor the popularity of their ads without asking users to give permissions to be tracked with identifiers. However, apps can still track their users via their own services based on first-party, but they can’t share the collected information with third parties without the users’ consent.
Apple Tim Cook addressed in a speech, “Technology does not need vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it,” he added “If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it doesn’t deserve our praise. It deserves reform.”
Google has also announced plans to stop third-party cookies support in its Chrome browser at the start of 2022 and focusing on not developing alternative identifiers or software to track users across the web.
According to a report published by Financial Times, the Chinese Advertising Association (CAA) has built an alternative identifier known as Chine Anonymization ID (CAID) to bypass the new Apple privacy policies and enables advertisers to continue tracking users without depending on IDFA. As per the report, the CAID is under development stages and is currently test by China’s biggest tech companies as well as several foreign advertising companies.
Since app developers are developing numerous technologies to bypass Apple’s new privacy requirements, it remains to be seen how the technology giant will impose its anti-tracking policies after going into effect.