If you are an Android device user, you may have come across a setting for Personalized Ads. The option, creates a unique device identifier, that is used by Google’s Ad services to deliver targeted ads.
XDA reports that Google has added an option that deletes your personalized advertising ID, in Android 12.
But first, let’s take a look at what the setting does. Ads are never good for privacy, they serve as a means to track you. In this case, Personalized Ads analyzes your activity, i.e., your apps, you usage, the searches you make, and so on and so forth, to profile you. By doing so, you are delivered ads that are relevant to your interests. That’s what they claim anyway, to offer you the best service.
Now that you have an idea of what that is, here’s how you can turn it off on your device. Go to your device’s Settings > Privacy > Advanced section (Or Google > Ads > Privacy > Advanced). You will see a random alphanumerical string at the bottom of the page, this is your advertising ID. This is what apps use to track you, as mentioned earlier.
Toggle the button next to “Opt-out of Ads Personalization” (as shown above). While it doesn’t completely protect you from being tracked, it does offer some level of anonymity. Tap the “Reset advertising ID” button to delete your personal identifier, and replace it with a new one.
The new option in Android 12, not only opts you out of the ads, but deletes the identifier altogether, replacing it with a set of zeros. Google has updated a page on its Play Console Help portal that details the upcoming change. It says the following,
“Starting in late 2021, when a user opts out of interest-based advertising or ads personalization, the advertising identifier will not be available. You will receive a string of zeros in place of the identifier.”
The Google Play Services documentation states that,
“In early 2022, this change will be applied to all the devices that support Google Play services.”
The page on the site mentions how developers can use the permission in their apps, but the documentation doesn’t clarify whether the option will be available on devices running on older versions of Android.
So for now, you can’t delete the advertising ID completely on devices running on Android 11 or below. We can’t tell if this will change with a future update to the Google Play Services framework.
You may ask, why do they have such an option in the first place? Well, ads are Google’s biggest moneymakers. The new setting won’t prevent Google from personalizing your account, when you use one of its services. e.g. YouTube, Gmail, etc. But it will stop other ad networks from fingerprinting your activity.
Android 12 may be released on October 4th for Pixel devices. Google moving away, or should I say giving more control over advertising IDs is one thing, but it does raise the question, what are they replacing it with? FLoC seems the likeliest candidate, and that’s not anything to cheer about.
If you’re using Firefox on your desktop, you can use the Multi-Account Containers extension, and the Facebook Containers add-on, in addition to uBlock Origin or a similar ad-blocker of your choice, to minimize the impact of being tracked by websites.