Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) makes changes to its privacy policies, it doesn’t get nearly as much press as when Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) does. That’s in spite of the fact that Google’s changes affect 60 different services. Now Quartz has pointed out that the search giant is keeping much closer tabs on what Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) users are doing on their iPhones.
Google wants people signed in all the time
Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) makes the lion’s share of its revenue through advertising. As a result, its goal is to have people signed into its services all the time so that it can more accurately show advertisers their return on investment. Since Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is Google’s biggest competitor, it makes sense that the company is targeting iOS users specifically—and using the guise of convenience to make it more attractive to users.
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In a very short blog post, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) explained the latest changes to the iOS 7 Gmail app. It “now fully supports background app refresh.” This sounds great because it means that messages are constantly being downloaded and sync so that users do not have to wait for the emails when they refresh their Gmail.
As always, there’s a catch
In addition, whenever Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) users sign into any of Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), they’re automatically signing in to all of Google’s services. Sure, it is very convenient, but it also means that Google can see everything iOS users do, no matter which of the company’s services they are using.
When Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) changed its privacy policies a couple of years ago, regulators initially though the company was just simplifying them. However, they quickly realized what those changes were really all about. European Union regulators are now investigating the new policy, saying it breaches EU law. France and Spain have fined Google, but the amount of that fine is basically nothing but a slap on the wrist for the massive advertising giant.
Why Google made these changes for Apple users
By combining the privacy for multiple services, Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) essentially made it easier to monitor everything users do. That gave the search giant tighter grip over usage of its services. However, as smartphones began to take over, the company began to lose its grip again because users spend 86% of their time on smartphones using aps rather than the browser. Google can’t track what they do in those apps.
Before Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) rolled out this change for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) users, they could be signed into Gmail. However, if they used the YouTube app, saw an ad for something and then went to their Amazon app to look at it and then bought it on their computer, Google had no way of knowing that they had seen the ad before they purchased it.
This has opened up a massive hole in the company’s ability to show proof of return on investment to their advertisers. By bridging the gap from the YouTube app to the purchase made on the computer—on which most people are already signed into Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) all the time—the company is able to connect the dots for advertisers.
Of course they already had a handle on Android users since they control the operating system, so naturally iOS, their next biggest competitor, is the next step in control. It should be noted that this only affects iOS 7 users though, but that’s still 85% of users.