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Google to stop advert tracking across apps on Android

Google has announced that it will stop advertisers tracking users across apps on Android smartphones, following in the footsteps of Apple and causing a significant blow to Meta Platform’s advertising business.

The tech giant said it wanted to “raise the bar for user privacy” by changing the way marketers can collect data on users as they move betweens apps on phones that use Android, the mobile operating system owned by Google that works on more than three billion active devices.

Google said it plans to phase out advertising IDs, the special code assigned to each Android device that allows marketers to track details about users. It will instead look to alternatives that protect user data.

Currently these advertising IDs allow a company such as Meta, previously called Facebook, to follow a user as they move between different apps on their phone, gathering personal data about them, delivering them adverts and also seeing what they click on.

Meta has defended such practices, saying that users prefer seeing adverts relevant to them while allowing marketers to reach the right potential customers.

However, the move from Google comes after Apple introduced new privacy measures last year that allowed users to opt-out of being tracked by apps on their iPhones and iPads. The move rocked the digital advertising industry and helped lead to $300 billion being wiped off Meta’s market value. Meta has said the changes by Apple will cost it $10 billion this year in lost advertising revenue.

Google has said it will take a less “blunt” path than Apple and will keep supporting trackers for another two years at least, as well as working with app developers and the advertising industry to create alternatives. It added that it would give the industry substantial notice before it makes any changes.

Yet despite such assurances, the announcement from Google spooked Meta investors, with the social media company’s share price down by 2.38 per cent to $215.93 in New York today, as concern grows the changes could further eat into the company’s revenue.

Since June last year Android users have been able to opt out of sharing their IDs with advertisers, but Google now plans to ditch the feature entirely.

Such moves from Apple and Google look to upend how advertising on the internet works, but come as users grow increasingly wary about how their data is used and who collects personal information about them.

The announcement by Google is likely to provoke scrutiny from regulators on both sides of the Atlantic due to the huge power the tech company has in the digital advertising economy.

Google is the world’s biggest advertising company, owning the bulk of the tools advertisers use to reach potential customers and selling billions of dollars worth of advertising space on search results and YouTube videos.

The company has been under the spotlight for its plans to make privacy changes to its Chrome web browser, where it is working on getting rid of third-party cookies, which are bits of code that can be used to track people on the internet and send them targeted adverts.

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