Google and Apple are each making major changes to the way advertisers can track and target consumers, which will effectively kill the decades-old 'cookies' used to tailor ads based on websites you've visited.
Apple's plan, unveiled Monday, has made privacy advocates happy but has ad-tech firms, mobile app developers and rivals (primarily Facebook, which could lose up to 3% of revenue according to Bank of America) fuming, Bloomberg reports.
Starting Monday, Apple's iOS will require apps running on its devices to obtain user permission before tracking any activity across other apps and websites - a move similar to what they've already done with their Safari web browser.
Ever use an app and see a screen pop up asking to use your phone’s microphone or camera? Apple’s change will work like that. Apps that want to track for advertising on iPhones and iPads will have to prompt users to opt in. Apple calls this App Tracking Transparency, or ATT. And it bans app makers from gunning for potential installers or lapsed users with data from other apps, such as purchase history and app-usage patterns. For many months, Apple has signaled this was coming, but still many app businesses are terrified of the financial damage. -Bloomberg
We're guessing most people won't opt into being tracked, making it far more difficult for ad campaigns to target consumers. One game developer, according to the report, called Apple's new rule an "atomic bomb."
According to Apple's software chief, Craig Federighi, the company thinks that "the industry will adapt" and that consumers should decide how their data are used.
Google's plan, which has yet to be enacted, is to invent an alternative to cookies that will place consumers in 'buckets' as opposed to using an individual's web history.
At some point (Google hasn’t said exactly when), the company’s Chrome browser will nix third-party cookies that target ads based on individual behavior. Google calls its proposed replacement Federal Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), a mouthful for new computer science jujitsu that will lump web surfers together around particular interests. Visit Bloomberg.com, for instance, and you may be categorized as a financial news consumer along with thousands of other people. Go to People.com, you may be put in a cohort of celebrity gossip fans. Advertisers can market to the groups you are in, but your identity (and web habits) will be hidden “in the crowd,” according to Google, which calls this a “privacy-first” system. -Bloomberg
While Apple's plan was applauded by privacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) - calling it "one more step in the right direction," Google's plan has received backlash - with the EFF begging them not to move forward with it.
"The technology will avoid the privacy risks of third-party cookies, but it will create new ones in the process," said the organization. Meanwhile, smaller rival web browsers such as Firefox and Opera are rejecting FLoC as a poor solution for privacy. Microsoft has been lukewarm on the idea for its Edge browser.
Ad-tech companies, unsurprisingly, are also not happy - and claim that FLoC further increases Google's power over an online advertising industry they already dominate.