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Google makes it harder for Android apps to track you once you opt out

It’s going to be harder for Android apps to track users who have opted out of receiving personalized ads Financial Times reports, after Google announced changes to how it will handle the unique device identifiers that allow marketers to track them between apps. Starting later this year, Google will cut access to these “advertising IDs” after a user has opted out, and will show developers a “string of zeros” instead.

The news was announced in an email to Play Store developers, and Google has also updated the Advertising ID support page with the announcement. Google told the developers that the changes will “give users more control over their data, and help strengthen security and privacy,”

; Financial Times reports.

The change comes a few short months after Apple revised the way advertising IDs work on iOS in an apparent attempt to compete with the new policy. Google recently announced that they are adding privacy information to the Play Store listings, mirroring a similar feature Apple added to the App Store last year, and also limiting which apps can see what you have installed on your phone.

Users have long been able to opt out of personal ads on Android (you can do so by going to the Settings app, going to the Google menu and selecting “Ads”), but it seems that at the moment does not prevent developers from having full access to the device’s advertising ID. AdExchanger reports that apps have previously been able to use the identifier for non-advertising purposes such as analytics and fraud prevention, and Google’s support page says it will announce an “alternative solution” for these usage issues next month.

Google’s support page says that the rollout of the new policy will take place in phases. Android 12 devices will start seeing the change in late 2021, before rolling out to all devices with Google Play early next year. XDA developers reports that Google Play Services will also notify existing apps with access to your Advertising ID and related data so that it can be deleted where appropriate.

Although Google’s announcement follows closely on the heels of Apple’s own changes in ad tracking, it’s not yet clear how similar the two approaches will be. Google’s support page still refers to the decision to stop ad tracking as an “opt-out” process, while Apple’s changes effectively make tracking an opt-in decision. But regardless of how Google ultimately handles the process, it’s another potentially great encouragement for the digital advertising industry.

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