After more than a year of pandemic and under pressure from legislative threats in both the EU and the US, technology giants like Apple and Google are tightening up the privacy protection in their products. “This is super important,” said Sam Heft-Luthy, Product and Security Manager at Google.
Among other things, Google has simplified and clarified for users who want to set up automatic deletion of historical user data – something that is also now a default setting for new users.
The search giant recently boasted at its annual so-called I / O conference, even though it is now easy to quickly delete the last 15 minutes of Google searches.
New privacy panel
A so-called privacy panel will also be promised in the autumn, when the Android 12 operating system is launched. There, the user gets a timeline that shows when different apps in the mobile have used the camera, microphone or the geographical position of the device.
Google Maps also gets simpler privacy settings, including reminders to users that they have location history active and information on how to turn it off.
Google’s latest round of updates comes after mobile and computer maker Apple launched a new version of its operating system, iOS 14.5, in late April. There, the iPhone manufacturer introduced a basic setting that means that the user must now give their explicit permission for apps to be able to collect data from the mobile phone.
Facebook went to the roof
The decision to block user data has since iOS 14.5 proved to be popular among Apple customers, which in turn has caused the social network Facebook and advertising companies, who want to target their advertising campaigns with the help of user data, to go to the roof.
What is Google’s position on this issue? Could this be something you offer in Android?
– I can not comment on specific competitors or broader market issues. But I can say that in the products Google builds for other platforms – for Windows or iOS – there we ensure that we follow the guidelines and conditions that apply there. So when we release new apps for the iOS App Store, we will follow what applies there, says Sam Heft-Luthy.
– I can also not comment on how we will choose to do when it comes to the future of Android, he adds.
According to Heft-Luthy, it is crucial for Google that users understand what information they share and how it is used – something that will become clearer in the new privacy panel that Google launches when they release Android 12 this autumn.
– This is super important for us.
Do you have the same ability to protect yourself from data collection in an Android phone as in an iOS phone?
– The model they (Apple) have to show what is happening and to give the user control tools and the model we have is in many ways very similar, but in some respects very different as well.
– I can not say if we are as good, better or worse. I can not tell you about details in the comparison we do internally. But definitely, we know what’s going on around the world, we build for different operating systems and we try to understand what we can learn from what they do – and also what we can do to push to make them go a little further on their edge. It is definitely part of the process.
Anonymizes user data
During the covid-19 pandemic, Google has, among other things, produced so-called mobility reports, where it has been possible to study travel patterns when economies have been shut down by restrictions with the help of position data from mobile users.
The reports have been based on a technology that anonymizes data from the user, but still shows how it moves.
Google, which derives most of its revenue from advertising services, has also partnered with Apple to develop a pandemic for Android and iOS phones in the pandemic, allowing authorities to more easily track infections using Bluetooth without revealing individual user information.
How does it fit in with your business model?
– It is part of the business model for our operating system. It is a basic competition analysis at the bottom. If there is one operating system that offers infection tracking and the other does not, which one do you choose? says Heft-Luthy.
– I have never felt that it has been difficult to justify what we do in the area of privacy for colleagues who work on the business side. People understand that this work is about building products that will work in the social context we operate in.
Facts: User data the oil in the machinery
User data from your computer or mobile phone – which is created when you surf, search for information, read news, publish photos and posts, stream videos or use map services to find where you want – is the oil in the machinery of network giants such as Google and Facebook.
Google’s advertising revenue – what they draw on the advertising tools they offer to businesses – totaled $ 147 billion last year. It can be compared with about 30 billion ten years ago and 70 million 20 years ago.
At the same time, Facebook’s advertising revenue last year amounted to just over 84 billion dollars, from just under two billion ten years ago.
Facts: Google in brief
California-based Google has grown tremendously since founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed their first search engine together in 1996.
The company, which is part of the Alphabet Group, is not only a world leader when it comes to internet searches with the search engine Google. It is also among the absolute largest when it comes to which so-called browser is used when surfing the web with Google Chrome.
The group’s largest products also include the Android operating system for mobile phones, the video platform Youtube, the email service Gmail and the map service Google Maps, the large cloud service Google Drive and the advertising tool Adsense.