Google is reportedly looking to improve its protections for users who choose to opt-out of in-app data tracking on Android, which many see as a response to Apple's recent update to its IDFA process for the same.
As reported by the Financial Times, Google's looking to add extra safeguards for Android users who opt-out of sharing their Advertising ID, which, like Apple's IDFA marker, currently enables marketers to track their activity within apps.
As per FT:
"Android users are already able to limit ad tracking or reset their Advertising IDs, but developers have been able to circumvent those settings by relying on alternative device identifiers that Google is now cracking down on. Google announced the changes on Wednesday in an email to Play Store developers, in which it wrote that it wanted to “provide users with more control over their data, and help bolster security and privacy”."
The update will mean that developers who try to access Advertising IDs for users who have chosen to opt-out will soon only be able to access 'a string of zeros instead of the identifier'.
That could be another blow for digital marketers who have already lost a heap of in-app data due to Apple's ATT update. ATT - or AppTrackingTransparency - sees iOS users now being prompted about data tracking within each app they use, with the option to stop their data being shared, if they choose.
Apple says that the prompts are a move to align with the growing shift towards improving data transparency, and giving people more control as to how their personal information is accessed. Google has also noted that it will be looking to provide similar protections and controls, but its moves, Google says, will also ensure that advertisers can continue to gather relevant insights to maintain their ad processes.
"We believe that part of the magic of the web is that content creators can publish without any gatekeepers and that the web’s users can access that information freely because the content creators can fund themselves through online advertising."
Recognizing the ongoing need for a level of data tracking, Google has been working on its 'Privacy Sandbox' experiments to cater to these evolving requirements, which will likely, eventually, see Android users given similar controls to iOS users, but without the up-front prompts that have spooked ad-supported companies.
This new move is still in line with that approach, but it does reflect the growing shift towards restricting data access, which could lead to further limitations for ad partners and media buyers as they seek to optimize their campaigns.
It may not be ideal from this perspective, but it makes sense, and the expectation should be that third-party data will become increasingly limited over time, as more users choose to block data tracking, limiting the flow of in-app insights.
That puts more focus on first-party data, and maintaining direct connection with your audience, which could help to negate at least some of the impacts.
It's unclear, exactly, what Google's eventual changes will mean in this respect, but we'll keep you updated on how it will impact ad targeting moving forward.