Google makes it harder for Android apps to track users

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Google has announced new changes to bolster privacy protections for Android users. In an email sent to app developers of the Play Store, the company has detailed how access to a user's Advertising ID would be restricted once a user opts out of receiving personalized ads. Advertising ID is a device identifier that allows marketers to track users as they switch between different apps.

On sending a request, the Android system would respond back with a string of zero's instead of an actual Advertising ID that can be used to track the user. The change means Android users can now opt out of interest-based advertising. The company has also updated its support page for Advertising ID detailing the change.

It has been possible to opt out of personalized ads on Android, but developers were able to circumvent the restriction using alternate identifiers. When opted out, the Advertising ID was still used to support analytics, attribution, and fraud detection. Google says it will release an alternative system in July that would not pass the ID for users who opt-out of personalization. The new system would first be rolled out to Android 12 and then gradually to older versions of Android via Play Store updates.

With this change, Google is trying to implement a system similar to the one launched by Apple last month where the ID for Advertising (IDFA) is zeroed and made useless once a user opts out of personalization. Although Apple's system is more proactive and "opt-in", Google's system is more background and "opt-out."

According to the Google's VP and GM of ads Jerry Dischler:

Third-party cookies and other proposed identifiers that some in the industry are advocating for do not meet the rising expectations that consumers have when it comes to privacy. They simply cannot be trusted in the long term. Longer term, we’ll evaluate additional opportunities to provide users with even more informed control over what persistent identifiers are provided to third parties.

In March, Google’s director of product management for ads privacy and trust, David Temkin posted in a company blog post that Google would not build alternate identifiers once third-party cookies are deprecated in Chrome, nor allow them in Google products.

Source: The Financial Times via The Verge

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