Google will reportedly soon let Android users opt out of being tracked by apps, a move recently taken by Apple. Industry watchers were tipped off by a Google support page detailing the new option and an email to developers announcing a Google Play app store policy change to be introduced later this year. The feature will turn off sharing for the advertising ID, which Android users can already manually reset, and also allow users to opt out of any alternative device identifiers used to track activity across apps. The news leaked several days prior to Apple’s June 7 WWDC21 event.
Gizmodo reports the Google support page indicates that, “any attempts to access the identifier will receive a string of zeros instead of the identifier.” Developers and advertising and analytics service providers will “receive notifications for opt-out preferences … [and] apps targeting Android 12 will need to declare a Google Play services normal permission in the manifest file.”
Apple’s tracking feature will be on by default but it is not yet clear if Google will do the same or keep it “buried deep in the settings panel.” Launch of Android 12 devices will begin in late 2021.
Gizmodo notes that, “Google has been working overtime to change the narrative on how it approaches privacy,” by adding “a bunch of granular privacy controls over the years, dating back to permission-selection features introduced back in Android 6.0 Marshmallow.” Google also just “announced a new safety section in the Google Play Store a few weeks back.”
All these efforts to “make its platforms and the services integrated into it seem safer” are in the service of building consumer trust “to hold on to that top spot on the market share leaderboard.”
The Verge reports that Google’s change “comes a few short months after Apple overhauled how advertising IDs work on iOS in an apparent attempt to compete with the new policy.” It also mirrored an Apple feature by “adding privacy info to its Play Store listings,” as well as “limiting which apps can see what you have installed on your phone.”
According to The Verge, “apps have previously been able to use the identifier for non-advertising purposes like analytics and fraud prevention, and Google’s support page says it will announce an ‘alternate solution’ for these use cases next month.”