Why Apple’s Consumer Privacy Options are Stronger

Detailed, app-by-app protection gives users more info

Key Takeaways

  • Both Google and Apple have changed how advertisers track users on Android and iOS.
  • Android and iOS offer ways to opt-out of personalized ad tracking, which can limit how much information advertisers have about you.
  • While both companies offer similar systems, experts say Apple’s app-by-app option allows for more consumer knowledge and better protection all around.
Magnifying glass highlighting a person icon in a group of people icons.

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Not all privacy protection is equal, and experts say that Apple’s more granular approach ultimately offers users more protection than Google.

Online privacy has become a huge point of contention in the past year, with both Apple and Google making significant strides toward offering more consumer privacy options for users. While both Android and iOS offer new options for users to protect themselves and control how advertisers track them, experts say there are some important details to look at when determining which option will protect your privacy better.

"Which one is actually most effective has more to do with how those settings are presented to the user. Are they hidden away in a hard-to-find menu? Are users ever prompted to change their settings? What is the default setting? It's the answers to these questions that will actually determine whether users protect their privacy and adjust their settings," Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech, told Lifewire in an email. 

"A setting that exists but no one uses is not helpful, especially if the default settings are not the most private ones."

Front and Center

Phone settings can sometimes get confusing, especially when manufacturers hide important options and features behind multiple menus. That’s why Apple’s front and center approach to letting users control ad tracking is so beneficial.

Not only does iOS make it easy to find the ad tracking options in the General settings, but it also gives you a pop-up prompt every time you load a new app for the first time.

App tracking prompts on an iPhone.

Apple

It’s a very granular approach that lets users control ad tracking on a per-app basis, but it puts the fact that this control exists front and center when you can see it, even if you don’t go digging through your settings.

On the other hand, Google makes things a bit more difficult to find. Instead of having personalized ad tracking options readily available under Privacy in your phone’s settings, Google makes you go through a bit more digging to control whether or not you opt-out. The good news here is you only have to tap one button to opt-out completely, which means you won’t need to worry about any popups. 

It’s nice for those who want to cut off personalized tracking completely, but the fact that you have to dig for it does make it a bit more difficult for everyday consumers to find if they aren’t familiar with their phone’s more intricate systems. It is worth noting that Apple lets users opt-out with a single tap, as well, so users who prefer iOS and don’t like the app-by-app options can simply opt-out altogether.

Knowledge Is Power

While the one-tap opt-out might be easiest, there is something to be said about the knowledge that comes with Apple’s app-by-app approach. 

"I prefer Apple's way of doing things," Chris Hauk, a privacy expert with Pixel Privacy, told us in an email. "An app-by-app opt-out reveals to users just how many apps have been tracking them over the years, hopefully making them more aware of the way apps violate their privacy as they use the web." 

Knowledge is one of the most critical keys to keeping your private information safe online. While consumer privacy options are steadily improving, understanding what you can do to protect that information is key. With Apple’s approach, users can clearly see which apps are trying to track their usage across multiple avenues, which means they can use that information to limit how much they use those services if they want to. 

"A setting that exists but no one uses is not helpful, especially if the default settings are not the most private ones."

Which is Better?

Ultimately, determining which privacy options are best all comes down to which makes the most sense for you. If you just want to click it and forget it, both Google and Apple offer perfectly good options. With Apple, though, you also get the opportunity to decide on a per-app basis, which can help you fine-tune which apps you trust with your data. 

Additionally, there’s always the factor of how Google and Apple make money to take into account.

"Google makes its money by tracking its users and selling that information," Hauk explained.

"Whether it's an Android phone, Google smart speaker, or a Google TV device, by default, they all track and record your online activities. Apple makes money from the sale of its devices and services and does not collect and sell information. Apple's way of doing business provides better privacy protection from the start."

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