Apple’s ATT update, which now prompts users of iOS apps to opt in or out of data tracking, has caused major disruption in the digital ad space, with Meta alone estimating that the change will cost it some $10 billion this year. And now, we could be set for the next stage of that shift, with Google announcing that it’s actively developing its Privacy Sandbox for Android, which is its equivalent data privacy control for Android users.
As explained by Google:
“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.”
Google’s also developing similar data privacy controls for the web, but the Android variation will likely have a bigger impact, given the significance of the mobile advertising marketplace, and the use of personalized targeting via apps.
Though Google has said that it’s aiming to work with developers to minimize disruption – while also taking a shot at Apple’s approach:
“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.”
As part of this, Google’s been as open as it can in the development of its Privacy Sandbox initiatives, which most recently saw the introduction of ‘Topics’ as its key audience targeting replacement, rather than cookie-tracking.
“With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like “Fitness” or “Travel & Transportation,” that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers.”
That concept will also, theoretically at least, carry over to the Android version of the same, which will enable ongoing audience targeting by topic categories, as opposed to more granular, personalized reach.
In order to ensure that it builds these new tools in partnership with developers, Google has pledged to support its existing ad tools for at least two more years, while it will also provide ‘substantial notice’ ahead of any change.
That is a lot different to Apple’s approach, which basically threatened to launch its ATT update for months, and didn’t tell anyone when, exactly, it would be coming, till basically it went live. Businesses then needed to scramble to mitigate any data losses, which, as in the case of Meta, has led to significant impacts, as it works to build new tools and solutions to counter the change.
Ideally, Google’s approach will allow more time and insight to build alternative solutions, while Topics targeting will, at the least, give ad partners some insight to go on, rather than leaving them in the dark. Google has also pledged to ensure that its new systems don’t give preferential treatment to its own ad products or sites. Which is another criticism that’s been leveled at Apple, and ideally, with longer lead and development time, that will lessen any potential impacts as a result of the enhance privacy shift.
Though there will be impacts. Over 2.5 billion people around the world use Android-powered devices, significantly more than those on iOS, and if Google doesn’t get this change right, it could have a disastrous impact on the digital ads ecosystem, leading to higher costs, and lower campaign performance, across the board.
Which is probably why all brands should be considering their data sources, and how they maintain connection with their audiences, and target future customers – because as these changes come into effect, you will need to update your approach to maximize performance and optimize spend.
There’s some time to go before this becomes a major headache, but it’s worth considering your approach now, and implementing your own data collection and community building efforts to prepare.
You can read more about the development of Privacy Sandbox for Android here.
Meta Announces WhatsApp Cloud API to Provide Hosting Support for SMBs
After previewing the option back in 2020, today, at its first-ever ‘Conversations’ messaging conference, Meta has announced that it’s launching the WhatsApp Cloud API, which will provide free, secure cloud hosting services for businesses.
As it sounds, the WhatsApp Cloud API will essentially host your conversation data on Meta’s servers, which will improve connection and speed, but will come with a degree of privacy trade-off.
The main benefits will be improved speed in messaging response, while it’ll also help to eliminate server expenses, which could be a big benefit to smaller businesses, in particular. It’ll also facilitate faster access to new WhatsApp business features as they become available.
The downside is that it will mean more reliance on Meta, while you’ll also need to dilute WhatsApp’s messaging security measures:
As Meta described in its original announcement:
“If a business chooses to use a third-party vendor to operate the WhatsApp Business API on their behalf, we do not consider that to be end-to-end encrypted since the business you are messaging has chosen to give a third-party vendor access to those messages. This will also be the case if that third-party vendor is Facebook.”
As such, WhatsApp will include new notifications on consumer-to-business exchanges conducted through Meta hosting.
How you feel about such trade-offs will come down to your personal perspective, but the offering could be highly valuable for smaller businesses looking to build out their tech stack, without having to sign on to a third-party hosting vendor, or buy their own hardware.
But again, that does also mean increasing your reliance on Meta, which has notoriously changed the rules on businesses in the past, leaving many in the lurch.
The real benefit, however, will likely be in developing regions, where WhatsApp is the dominant messaging platform, and many small businesses are looking for ways to maximize their reach and transactions in-app. If Meta can assist them in building their business, that could be a big step in making WhatsApp a more critical utility, for many more users, while also, eventually, providing a direct revenue pathway for the messaging platform.
Though it does feel like a bit of a honey trap. Meta has already flagged that it will eventually introduce charges for these additional elements, without specifically outlining what those costs will be. Once businesses are reliant on such, it’ll be too late to back out, and Meta could ensnare them via incremental increases, that may eventually become a big earner for the company.
On another front, Meta also announced Recurring Notifications on Messenger, which will enable businesses to re-engage people within a messaging thread. The feature is only available to premium users at present, which doesn’t cost more to be part of right now, but will in future as Meta looks to incorporate new charges for its messaging and hosting tools.
You can check out replays of the Conversations conference presentations here.
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