Google will make it more difficult to track Android users across apps (updated)
The rumors that Google is developing anti-tracking features for Android seem to be well-founded. "Financial Times" learned that Google is informing developers to provide new protection measures for Android users who choose not to share device-specific advertising IDs, which allow the company to track users across applications. If a developer tries to access the ID of a person who refuses to track, they will get a "string of zeros" instead of useful information.
You can already curb ad tracking and reset your Advertising ID, but developers have had ways to work around these restrictions.
The new approach is slated to arrive later this year, Google said in the email. We've asked Google if it can elaborate on the move, including whether or not it's tied to Android 12.
The new safeguards would effectively serve as a counter to Apple's stricter app tracking privacy introduced in iOS 14.5. Critics have accused Google of being reluctant to improve privacy controls in the past, to the point where it allegedly hid settings to discourage people from using them. That focus has changed over the years, to the point where Android 12 will include multiple conspicuous privacy controls, but efforts like this anti-tracking measure could further aid Google's reputation.
This could be helpful if you want to use Android but want improved privacy. However, it's not just advertisers that won't be thrilled. Security expert Jackie Singh told the FT that there's a concern that Google (and Apple) will have disproportionately more power over your data.You may have more privacy overall, but the move could amount to more of a calculated tradeoff than an absolute win for users.
Update at 11:25 AM, June 3rd, US Eastern Time: Engadget understands that the new protection measures will be implemented in phases, starting from Android 12 devices at the end of 2021, and covering all devices that support the Google Play store by the beginning of 2022 equipment. Google also made this change over a period of time, although considering Apple’s latest move, the timing must be convenient.