• December 5, 2022

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The Apple versus Facebook battle is well documented, but the power struggle between the iPhone maker and Google is now gaining pace.

Google’s Android has always fallen behind Apple’s iOS in the privacy stakes. It’s not a surprise, since Google’s business model is based on advertising.

But Google is now trying to take on Apple in privacy by finally adding features it announced last year into the Play Store via a new safety section that details the data apps collect—much like Apple’s privacy labels. App developers have until July 20 to add details to the listings.

Google is planning more privacy features, but they won’t come into place for at least two years.

Apple’s privacy features boost its reputation

Apple’s privacy features have boosted the iPhone maker’s reputation over the last couple years. Perhaps the most influential of these is App Tracking Transparency (ATT), the anti-tracking features that ask iPhone users to opt in to tracking across apps and services.

Among the successes of ATT, it’s made people aware of background iPhone tracking by firms such as Facebook.

Some critics have claimed Apple is using ATT to boost its own ad business. In response to this, Apple commissioned a whitepaper in which Kinshuk Jerath, Professor of Business in the Marketing Division at Columbia Business School defended the iPhone maker’s privacy features. The paper is obviously biased, but it’s still worth reading.

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Apple says its privacy-centric strategy is working—Apple CEO Tim Cook claims more people are ditching Google’s Android for the iPhone. “We had a record level of upgraders during the quarter and we grew switchers, strong double digits,” Cook told CNBC’s Steve Kovach in a recent interview.

Facebook loses while Google takes on Apple in privacy

Apple’s revenue model is based around services—it wants to lock people into its walled garden where it owns the entire ecosystem. One way of attracting people in the first place is through privacy as a differentiator.

As Apple continues to introduce new privacy features, the real loser is Facebook. Last month, I reported how the iPhone maker’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) features will cost Facebook $12.8 billion in 2022—a bigger hit than previously thought.

Like Facebook, Google bases its business around advertising, yet Google has an advantage compared to Facebook because it owns so many platforms.

As Forbes’ Zak Doffman says: “It comes down to business models. What’s interesting is, we are in results season for big tech and Google’s data and advertising business is holding up really well compared to Facebook.

“That’s because of its ownership of the platforms—whether it’s Android or Chrome, these enormously popular platforms are a goldmine for Google and have given it a level of resilience in its revenue line that Facebook can’t possibly match.”

As the big tech battle rages on, with Apple and Google going head to head and Facebook frankly losing, there are benefits to users too. Google has started to take notice with Android privacy features, while following on from iOS 14 and iOS 15, Apple is sure to make iOS 16 about privacy.

Intentionally or not, this big tech battle is also highlighting the vast amounts of data that many firms collect, and giving people more control over what they give away. That’s got to be a good thing.

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