According to a report from Bloomberg, Google is exploring its own alternative to Apple's anti-tracking features to be introduced in an iOS 14 update. The company is in early internal talks on how it could limit data collection and cross-app tracking on its operating system, trying to balance its interests as an advertising company and users asking for more privacy.

Bloomberg speculates that Google's solution won't be as strict as Apple's. In the forthcoming iOS 14.5 update, users will see a popup when an app wants to use Apple's ad ID for targeted advertising, allowing them to hinder applications from gaining data. While Google already decided to forgo Apple's cross-app tracking technology on iOS going forward, Facebook is actively campaigning against the incoming changes, claiming that they would hurt small businesses. More privacy protection is an issue dividing the industry, and it remains to be seen how far Google can go on its operating system without calling up anti-trust agencies.

If Google's foray into privacy seems familiar to you, it's because it partially is. Google has been working on a more privacy-minding alternative to third-party cookies for Chrome called Privacy Sandbox (conveniently giving it more power in the advertising market while at it). It's based on federated learning technology (FLoC), a machine learning technique that relies on training an algorithm across a network of decentralized devices, allowing Google and other advertisers to target interest groups, not individual users. In the proposed API, user data wouldn't leave the browser anymore.

It remains to be seen how Google will tackle privacy protection on Android, but I wouldn't be surprised if it settles for a similar federated learning approach.