Why Google's new privacy labels are important

When Apple released their privacy nutrition labels, it was seen as a key turning point in platform-level privacy. Even so, while Apple holds control of mobile device profits and industry mind share, they do not account for the majority of mobile devices globally—especially in developing countries. The iPhone is expensive, and therefor any of its privacy protections become a benefit only to those that can afford their devices.

Recently, Google announced that Android will include a similar privacy label feature. Android's implementation may come later, but it has greater reach. Apple was the push Google needed, but once they are both live it won't matter who went first. More people will benefit from a successful deployment of privacy labels across the Android ecosystem.

So there's potential, but will all of those android users really be better protected? Google's reputation for handling personal data is anything but stellar. They also don't have a great track record for supporting older, lower end devices—especially as the ecosystem is tricky with third party phone providers. Google can set the route, but they can't enforce that everyone follows it.

What this does mean is that vendors are slowly moving toward setting standards that aren't directly tied to the speed of regulation. While the EU has deeply established privacy regulation, other parts of the world don't. Actions from browsers and phone makers have the potential to bring some safeguards to those in nations that are less concerned with the privacy of their citizens.

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