Google follows Apple in letting users opt-out of ad tracking on Android

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Apple made a significant change with iOS 14.5, requiring app developers to explicitly ask for the app’s permission to track the user’s information for personalized ads. Apple’s change was meant to give its customers more privacy and transparency when it comes to data collection.

Apple's App Tracking Transparency prompt on iOS
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency prompt on iOS

Google has confirmed that it too will make the change for Android users to opt out of ad tracking, but not in the same explicit manner that Apple has done. Starting with Android 12, developers will no longer have access to the user’s Advertising ID and if requested, it will return a string of zeroes.

Currently, Android phones have the option to “Opt out of Ads Personalization” and this can be found in Settings > Google > Ads. Still, an app could request an Advertising ID, bypassing the user’s option since it is used for other analytics purposes. With the new Android 12 change, Google will offer an alternative method for analytics and fraud prevention that doesn’t use the Advertising ID and apps won’t be able to collect the identifier if the user has opted out.

Starting in late 2021, when a user opts out of interest-based advertising or ads personalization, the advertising identifier will not be available. You will receive a string of zeros in place of the identifier.

Google’s core business is selling ads, so making the option more transparent like Apple would more significantly affect its bottom line. Making the option Opt-out would allow those who aren’t aware of the option to continue to be tracked. It’s only when a user is informed and aware that the option exists that they can Opt out. On the other hand, Apple’s Opt-in method received pushback from Facebook, who also sells ads and collects data from its users through the app. Facebook even launched a campaign in the name of small businesses to convince users to allow tracking.

According to Google’s support page regarding the Advertising ID, the change will begin in late 2021 on devices running Android 12 and in early 2022 for all devices that support Google Play Services.

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