Google will make it difficult for Android apps to track you — here's how

Photo of Google Play app icon on Pixel 4 XL
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Google is making it more difficult for Android apps on the Google Play Store to track users who opted out of personalized ads, with the security update set to roll out in late 2021.

Google Play apps use advertising IDs to offer Android smartphone users personalized ads, which gives developers a way to monetize their apps. Currently, app developers can access the advertising IDs of all users, including those who decided to opt-out of being shown these ads. 

According to a recent update on its support page (via MakeUseOf), the tech giant will no longer show the advertising ID of users who don't allow personalized ads. Instead, developers will only get a "string of zeros in place of the identifier."

Google notified developers of the upcoming privacy update, although no specific date was mentioned. However, the update will first roll out to Android 12 devices later this year, while all other Android devices will get the same treatment by early 2022.

Google doubles down on privacy 

Google restricting Android app developers from seeing a user's advertising ID is yet another way the tech giant is bolstering its privacy policies — something rival company Apple recently did with the introduction of App Tracking Transparency.

During the Google I/O 2021 conference, Google also introduced a new "privacy dashboard" to Android smartphones, allowing users to see what type of data has been accessed by different apps. While not as restrictive as Apple's new privacy tool, Google announced other privacy features.

Earlier this year, Google made developers comply with a new policy update that blocks “broad app visibility” in Android 11 or later. This makes it difficult for malicious apps from stealing private data.

With ad-tracking generally being frowned upon, Google also took its first steps towards phasing out third-party cookies to stop tracking users' browsing activity for targeted ads on Chrome. Its new approach to interest-based advertising is known as Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC).

The new privacy update is set to roll out later this year, but for those who use Google Chrome, you'll be happy to know Google recently updated its Enhanced Safe Browsing feature to help you identify malicious extensions. 

Darragh Murphy

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.