Google is making a small concession to Android ads in the wake of iOS 14.5 | GeekComparison

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After Apple shook up the ad industry by requiring users to opt-in to ad tracking in iOS 14.5, Google – the world’s largest advertising company – is announcing a small concession on ads on Android. Beginning in late 2021, Google will begin rolling out a feature that makes Android’s years-long ad opt-out checkbox less likely to be circumvented by apps.

Android's opt-out check box for ad tracking.
Enlarge / Android’s opt-out check box for ad tracking.

Ron Amadeo

Android has offered an opt-out option for ads for years, and the interface doesn’t seem to change. Buried in the settings (System Settings -> Google -> Ads) is a checkbox that lets you opt out of ad personalization.

Checking the box would “instruct apps not to use your advertising ID”, but with this new change, the checkbox will stop asking apps not to use the advertising ID and will instead show apps “a series of zeros show when they try to access it. The rollout will affect apps running on Android 12 devices in late 2021 and will expand to all Google Play services in early 2022.

Google’s ad change has made headlines in the tech world, but the move probably won’t change much. The most important factor in iOS 14.5 is that ad personalization is opt in. A big popup will appear asking if you want the app to track you, and you can choose “yes” or “no”. When asked directly, users overwhelmingly rejected ad tracking, with a study showing that 96 percent of iOS 14.5 users chose to block access to their advertising ID. On Android, users are not directly asked if they want to be tracked. They will have to know that this checkbox exists and then find it in the settings, which will almost certainly result in dramatically lower usage. Example: 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 all ad SDKs (not just the Google ad network) to use the Android ad ID for ad tracking. If everyone follows the rules, this check box will block ad tracking across all ad networks for apps downloaded from the Play Store, just as it supposedly has for years.

However, if app makers followed the rules, Google wouldn’t have to make this checkbox more aggressive by passing a series of zeros to apps.

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