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Technology giants are strengthening privacy protections for their users, making it harder for advertisers to track them online. The intense regulatory effort worldwide is forcing many firms to review advertising policies meant to serve targeted digital ads. Mint explores.

What are the new policies?

On 4 June, Google LLC said it would provide Android users an option to stop apps from tracking them across the internet. This came months after it said it would do away with third-party cookies on its Chrome browser from early 2022, and stop tracking users based on their email addresses. The company took the cue from Apple Inc., which was the first to halt data tracking with iOS 14.5. Apple has also stopped third-party cookie tracking on its Safari browser. In contrast, WhatsApp’s data sharing policy update aims at sharing information on people’s interactions with businesses on the app with parent Facebook Inc.

How have privacy laws worked so far?

In India, although the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB) is yet to be passed by Parliament, the IT ministry’s tough stand on WhatsApp’s data sharing policy sent a strong message to tech platforms to get their act together on user privacy. Globally, stringent privacy laws such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have set the benchmark high, forcing technology firms to review data policies. These laws highlighted the need to see personal devices such as smartphones as tools to profile individuals online, requiring regulations to control the use of phone data.

Focus shifts to privacy
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Focus shifts to privacy

How do they affect users and platforms?

Users will get the option to decide whether they wish to share their personal data with an advertiser. They will no longer be followed by pesky online ads served through retargeting across websites. Users are also expected to see more personalized and relevant campaigns. Meanwhile, firms are likely to lose some revenue as they shift to different ways of serving targeted ads.

How can advertisers realign themselves?

The evolving online privacy landscape has provided advertisers an opportunity to reduce their dependence on third-party tech platforms and start building their relationship with customers. Firms need to invest in building their own customer data across platforms. They can try and harvest market research and aggregated anony-mized data to enrich their first-party data pool. These steps will help them bridge the gap between consumer insights and marketing implementation once privacy first policies are fully implemented.

What will be the impact on the market?

Being an Android-dominated market, Google’s decision to allow an opt-out option to users for data tracking on apps and third-party cookie advertising is likely to impact India’s 17,000-crore digital advertising market. However, it is too early to ascertain the exact scale of the impact. Additionally, unlike its counterparts in Europe and the US, users in India are still discovering the implications of online privacy, which requires consistent and large-scale awareness drives

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