In 2020, when Apple announced plans for sweeping privacy changes to its mobile phones, Meta Platforms—the parent of Facebook and one of the advertising powerhouses most likely to feel the pain of the changes—duked it out with Apple for days on Twitter and in full-page newspaper ads. Another internet ad giant, Google, barely made a peep in public.
But behind closed doors, Google’s chief business officer, Philipp Schindler, pressed Apple for changes in late 2020, including in meetings with the company’s senior vice president, Eddy Cue, according to two people with direct knowledge of the conversations. Meanwhile, Google staff met regularly with their counterparts at Apple. Apple refused to budge on Google’s most significant requests.
Google had good reason to pressure its longtime tech rival. Apple’s new policies—which went into effect last April—threatened to pull the rug out from under targeted advertising, the wildly lucrative business that had turned Google’s parent company, Alphabet, into a behemoth worth $1.7 trillion. No longer could Google, the world’s biggest seller of ads, count on its ability to measure whether, say, an ad for a hotel in one mobile app got a user to book a room in another app.