After years of debate, Apple Inc. and Google are making separate moves to effectively kill the software marketers use to track your online activity and tailor ads specifically for you. The moves are upending the way companies have reached audiences and made money from ads since the earliest days of the internet. Apple's plan has pleased privacy advocates but left mobile app developers, ad-tech firms and rivals (chiefly Facebook Inc.) worried and fuming. And Alphabet Inc.'s Google is nearing a similarly contentious update to its Chrome browser, which will radically alter how ads are targeted on websites. With these changes, both companies are wielding the kind of power normally only governments have.
1. What are Apple and Google actually doing?
Starting on Monday, Apple will require apps running on its devices to get consumer permission before tracking their activity on other apps and websites. The company has already outlawed the use of unauthorized third-party cookies on its Safari web browser. Now, that prohibition is coming to apps. Google, meanwhile, is inventing a cookie alternative, rather than crushing it. Google's feature will let marketers continue to target desired buckets of consumers, just no longer using an individual's web history. In theory, this will make it more difficult to mesh ad-tracking with information collected from data brokers and other providers, which has let marketers target consumers based on age, race and gender. Both companies are justifying their moves as improving privacy. Google,though, has pitched its effort as a balancing act between privacy and the survival of web publishing, which relies on ads.
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