After Apple shook the advertising industry by asking users to opt for ad tracking in iOS 14.5, Google – the world’s largest advertising company – announced a small concession for advertising on Android. Beginning in late 2021, Google will begin rolling out a feature that will make it less likely to bypass the year-long checkbox to log out Android apps.
Enlarge / Checkbox to turn off Android’s ad tracking.
Android has offered an advertising opt-out option for years, and the user interface doesn’t seem to be changing. In the settings (System Settings -> Google -> Advertising) there is a check box buried with which you can “deactivate personalized advertising”.
Checking the box would “tell apps not to use your advertising ID”, but with this new change, the check box no longer prompts apps not to use the advertising ID and instead displays “a series of zeros” for apps when trying to access it. The rollout will have an impact on apps running on Android 12 devices from late 2021 and expanded to all Google Play services in early 2022.
Google’s advertising change made headlines across the tech world, but the move likely won’t change much. The key factor in iOS 14.5 is that ad personalization is opt-in. A big pop-up will appear asking if you want the app to track you and you can choose yes or no. When asked directly, users have largely declined ad tracking. According to a study, 96 percent of iOS 14.5 users chose to block access to their ad ID. On Android, users are not asked directly if they want to be tracked. You need to know that this check box exists, and then find it in the settings, which will almost certainly result in drastically reduced usage. Case in point: This “Ad Personalization” checkbox has been in Android since 2013. I bet you didn’t know about it.
The Google Play Store developer policy requires that all advertising SDKs (not just Google’s advertising network) use the Android ad ID for ad tracking purposes. If everyone follows the rules, this check box will block ad tracking on all ad networks for apps downloaded from the Play Store, as it has supposedly been for years.
However, if app makers followed the rules, Google wouldn’t have to make this check box more aggressive by passing a series of zeros to apps.