Feb 16, 2022 - Technology

Google to phase out cross-app ad tracking on Android devices

An Android statue near a Google sign at a Google campus in Mountain View, California.
An Android statue on Google's campus in Mountain View, Calif. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Google announced Wednesday it will phase out cross-app ad trackers on Android smartphones, a move aimed at increasing data privacy for consumers using its operating system.

Why it matters: It's a major upheaval to how advertising and data collection will work on Android devices and comes after Apple last year placed new restrictions on apps that track behavior to tailor ads to users.

  • Apple's new restrictions had profound effects on companies that sell mobile ads based on user data, including Snapchat and Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook.
  • Meta said earlier this month that it expects Apple's ad tracking changes to cost it $10 billion in ad revenue in 2022.

How it works: Currently, people using Android devices are assigned special IDs that advertisers use to build a behavioral profile of the user. They use this profile to eventually place highly targeted ads on the person's screen.

  • Google said it will now phase out the ID system and develop a new privacy-focused advertising system that will limit sharing of user data with third parties.

Thought bubble, via Axios' Sara Fischer: Google's efforts to change privacy practices in Chrome, its web browser, have faced challenges, including industry pushback on its initial proposal and delayed timelines.

  • The company's efforts on Android will likely be met with similar industry disagreement, given how many players are involved in the app economy.

The big picture: Operating systems and web browsers are pushing to introduce more privacy standards amid increased regulatory pressure in the U.S. and Europe.

  • Democrats last month introduced a bill that would essentially ban most targeted advertising.
  • Google said last month it would also change how targeted ads work on its Chrome web browser after privacy advocates criticized its previously-announced plan.

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