Google Tightens ‘Limit Ad Tracking’ Policies For Android Ad ID

Google will zero out the Android Advertising ID – literally – when users have opted out of personalized advertising starting later this year.

The company notified mobile developers Thursday about the switch.

Currently, users who have opted out of tracking and personalized advertising are still tagged by the Advertising ID when they open an app, since that ID is used for non-advertising use cases such as attribution, analytics and fraud detection. But beginning later this year, the advertising ID field for opted-out users will display only a string of zeroes, instead of the ID.

In a support page published today, Google said that in July it will release an alternative to the Android Advertising ID to support analytics and fraud detection without passing the ID for users who opt out of personalization.

The update is akin to how Apple strips the ID for Advertising (IDFA) when users opt out of tracking. Once Google enforces the changes to its Android Advertising ID, the zeroed-out ID will be similarly useless as the IDFA.

The big difference is that Apple’s latest iOS proactively alerts every user in every third-party app to decide whether to allow tracking for ads, a program called AppTrackingTransparency. And, when prompted, the vast majority of users reject tracking, according to early data about iOS 14.5. Google is taking the quieter approach of enforcing anonymity when people have opted out of ads personalization, without prompting users to make the decision.

However, this won’t be the end of Google and Android’s march towards tougher privacy standards.

“Longer term, we’ll evaluate additional opportunities to provide users with even more informed control over what persistent identifiers are provided to third parties,” according to the Google Support page.

Unlike Apple, Google’s mobile ad-tracking policy changes will go through months of review and coordination with developers and tech vendors. For one thing, any sudden changes by Google properties like Android or Chrome that disrupt Google’s advertising competition could set off antitrust tripwires. Android is also open-source software, so Google can’t make sudden changes of its own discretion.

But these updates to Android and the Google Play Store do follow in Apple’s pre-ATT footsteps.

And Google has hinted recently that digital media and ad tech must prepare for an ecosystem where persistent third-party identifiers are not countenanced.

“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,” Google VP and GM of ads Jerry Dischler told clients during a company event last week. “They simply cannot be trusted in the long term.”

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