Just kidding: Google would never go as far as Apple does. But it is making concessions related to personalized ads in a bid to avoid antitrust troubles.
“As part of Google Play services update in late 2021, the advertising ID will be removed when a user opts out of personalization using advertising ID in Android Settings,” a revised Google support document notes of the coming change. “Any attempts to access the identifier will receive a string of zeros instead of the identifier … Apps targeting Android 12 will need to declare a Google Play services normal permission in the manifest file.”
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So what does that mean? As Google explains, the advertising ID is a unique value used to individually identify users for advertising purposes; a similar system is employed on other platforms like iOS and Windows, and it’s used to provide personalized, as opposed to random, advertising.
Today, Android users can reset their advertising ID and opt-out of personalized ads. But with Android 12, Google will take the additional step of not alerting advertisers when a user has opted out of personalized ads. But because there are other use cases for this ID, Google says that it will provide a new solution to support essential use cases like analytics and fraud prevention.
Advertising represents over 80 percent of Google’s revenues, so no one should be lulled into believing that the company will ever do anything that materially undercuts this business. But the firm can certainly use a PR win given Apple’s stricter changes and how slowly Google moved to update its own apps on iPhone to meet Apple’s requirements. And copying Apple—or at least appearing to—is absolutely in Google’s wheelhouse.