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Will Android Hop on the Anti-Tracking Bandwagon?

Take a quick swipe of your phone and count how many apps you’ve got on it. A dozen? Two dozen? If you’re an Android user, many of these apps are free in Google Play, providing nearly unlimited access to all sorts of content. No matter how many you’ve downloaded, every single one likely has ads embedded that you don’t even notice or pay attention to. But they’re paying attention to you – lots of attention.

As the narrator in the 2021 Apple video summed it up, “Your information is for sale. You have become the product.” While Apple introduced its anti-tracking tool for iPhones nearly a year ago, Android has continued to lag behind. But it looks like Google may be getting closer to jumping on the anti-tracking bandwagon, possibly even in 2022. No bueno for advertisers.

 

What is Digital Ad Tracking (and Why Should I Care About It?)

According to HubSpot, digital ad tracking is, “the process of collecting data and user insights on the performance of online advertising campaigns. There are numerous methods advertisers can employ to collect this information, including tracking URLs, tracking pixels, and cookies.”

To break it down, that means advertisers pay to collect your data when you are using apps, which they then analyze and apply to create curated campaigns for their target audiences. Bottom line? Android users are being watched and currently have no way to opt out. Some people are totally cool with that, but others are like oh hellz no, and choosing to switch to Apple. So, Android finds itself at a crossroads, having to decide if it’s willing to make the change to anti-tracking.

 

Why Do Digital Ads Matter?

Your phone is yours and yours alone. We always have our devices within arms reach, rarely share them with anyone else, and rely on them for everything from getting the news to shopping online to playing games that used to be enjoyable before they were taken over by a large conglomerate

And advertisers know all of this. They are acutely aware that phones are important possessions that contain more personal information about their owners than we can likely even imagine. Vox summed it up brilliantly, saying, “that tracking system is the backbone of the internet’s advertising infrastructure, and you’re familiar with it even if you never think about it: It’s why, for instance, you see ads for shoes you’ve already looked at on Zappos when you’re visiting other sites.”

 

Android Ads

Catering digital ads to the precise demographic they are targeting becomes much, much easier for advertisers when they have that information at their fingertips. Android currently allows this, there’s no option for users to limit what is and is not shared about them. So by using GPS tracking and device IDs, advertisers have the ability to capture your attention, encourage you to look at their content, and earn more of your dollars. Google is even kind enough to offer advertisers a helpful step-by-step guide about how to do exactly that.

 

Apple Ads

Advertisers on Apple devices have to jump through a few more hoops. The 2021 iOS 14.5 update introduced a new anti-tracking privacy feature, allowing users to choose who gets to track them, and permitting or revoking those tracking privileges as they see fit. The Apple ads anti-tracking privacy features have hit social media apps hard financially, but users are pretty happy that they now get to decide whether or not Facebook, er, Meta can watch their every move. 

 

Android’s Decision Time

Mobile device IDs are basically the “cookies” of your phone. And while cookies on your laptop browser expire after 24 hours, mobile device IDs last for up to 21 months. That’s nearly 2 years! It’s borderline creepy that advertisers on Android devices get to be voyeurs into your life for that long. Google recognizes that this is no bueno, and is in the beginning stages of rectifying their tracking policies. But they aren’t in a hurry to rush this transition, having watched the Apple ads privacy fallout, and are making this major shift methodically.

 

Go Play in the Sandbox

Google announced their Privacy Sandbox for Android a few weeks ago, letting the public know that this would be a slow, multi-year rollout. “Today, we’re announcing a multi-year initiative to build the Privacy Sandbox on Android, with the goal of introducing new, more private advertising solutions,” wrote Anthony Chavez, a VP from product management on the Android Security and Privacy team, in the post. “Specifically, these solutions will limit sharing of user data with third parties and operate without cross-app identifiers, including advertising ID.”

And while the exact details are still being ironed out, the end result looks like it will be similar to Apple: letting users change their unique identifiers, creating a new system for anti-tracking, and allowing consumers to choose who, what, when, where, and how advertisers get to follow them around. 

If you’re an advertiser who has already felt the Apple pinch and is starting to sweat about a possible Android change, don’t sweat – we’ve gotcha.

Jacob Tyler’s award-winning agency is here to help you create campaigns that are innovative, relevant, and will help nurture every step of your customer’s journey from design to strategy.

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