This morning, as part of a cluster of other announcements including the Android OS update, KitKat and Nexus 5, Google is replacing the unique Android ID (similar to Apple’s old UDID) with a new “Advertising ID.” The latter largely duplicates the approach of Apple’s Identifier For Advertising (IDFA).
Google’s new Advertising ID (for apps but not the mobile browser) is a long, anonymous string of digits that will allow tracking and ad targeting without relying on an identifier uniquely married to the device. It abstracts targeting up a level and introduces additional user control.
It will be immediately available (for devices running android 2.3 or later) but “enforced” over time. Google Play terms are being changed to require use of Advertising ID next year.
As indicated, Google is announcing new user privacy controls, similar to Apple’s “limit ad tracking.” Users will be able to reset the Advertising ID (as you can reset the IDFA in iOS 7) and opt out of “interest based ads.”
In Google settings users will be able to click “Ads” (see above) and be taken to a screen where they will see the Advertising ID and be able to reset it, essentially like clearing their cookies in a browser. The screen will also let them opt out of “interest based ads.” This is comparable to “ad choices” online, where users can opt out of behaviorally targeted ads.
Following Apple’s lead, Google is trying to provide a balance between advertiser desires to track and identify users and consumer privacy interests. Apple’s IDFA has been well received and so should this be.
Google issued the following formal statement about the change:
To give users better controls and to provide developers with a simple, standard system to continue to monetize their apps, we are replacing Android ID with an anonymous identifier for advertising purposes. This enables users to reset their identifier, or opt out of interest-based ads for Google Play apps.
The Google Play terms are being updated to require advertisers to use it after August 1, 2014: “Beginning August 1st 2014, all updates and new apps uploaded to the Play Store must use the advertising ID (when available on a device) in lieu of any other device identifiers for any advertising purposes.”
As mentioned, the new Advertising ID doesn’t in any way implicate the browser (mobile or online). It’s only for advertising in apps. Google’s effort to get users to sign in to Google Chrome (across platforms) is a parallel Google-only way to identify users and target them accordingly. While that identifies particular individuals it’s opt-in and is just like being signed in to Facebook or Twitter.
Consumer interests and mobile advertising need not be in opposition. To some degree I believe reconciling that apparent “conflict” goes to the quality of mobile ads and the ad creative itself.
Hopefully Advertising ID (and IDFA) will make those in the mobile advertising ecosystem think more carefully about mobile ads and improve their overall quality.