Google is Adding iOS 14-like Tracking Protection in Android 12

Posted on June 4, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google with 9 Comments

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.”

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.

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Comments (9)

9 responses to “Google is Adding iOS 14-like Tracking Protection in Android 12”

  1. dcdevito

    That was good, thanks for the chuckle. Good article too, cheers.

  2. jchampeau

    When I read the headline, I actually said "What!?" out loud. Thanks for the laugh, Paul. :)

  3. spiderman2

    *except for google apps

  4. MikeCerm

    This is exactly what Apple does. Making it harder for 3rd parties to track you -- while putting no limit on what they're able to do themselves -- helps Apple and Google increase their monopoly powers. Google doesn't mind if tracking gets a bit harder, because they're still the best at it. As granular information about users becomes scarce, Google just becomes more powerful because they're already sitting on a massive stockpile and between Chrome, Android, YouTube, Gmail, Search, and their other entrenched services, Google is best positioned to keep harvesting new data.

    • Jeffsters

      You really should research what Apple collects and what they do with it. More importantly what they do not collect and what is processed locally and stays resident on the device.

  5. StevenLayton

    "You'll never believe what Google has just gone and done to try to keep up with Apple...."

  6. Pbike908

    There was an article in the Financial Times this week about how IOS app companies are circumventing IOS 14.5 tracking blocking. One way is obvious -- via IP address. It is going to be interesting to see how this will play out, however, I don't think the EU, U.S., nor any other company will be successful in stopping tracking since the hardware/OS companies themselves can track you and shutting others out will raise anti trust/competitive issues.

    Nonetheless Google response to IOS 14.5 is better than nothing. If one uses a debit/credit card and/or carries a smartphone one is being tracked my multiple entities.

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