What Is Limit Ad Tracking on Android?

By Vungle | February 11, 2022

How Google’s changes to Android ad tracking differ from Apple’s, and what it means for advertisers.

Google is changing the way the limit ad tracking feature functions on Android, which also means changes for developers and publishers working within the most common mobile operating system in the world.

Many iOS users have opted out of ad tracking due to Apple’s moves to more prominently surface advertising options and it may look as if Android users are poised to do the same, but there are some material differences between the approaches Apple and Google have taken.

In this article, we’ll run through what the limit ad tracking Android feature may mean for advertising and how to make sure the changes cause as little disruption as possible for your own business.

Let’s start by exploring the most fundamental way Google handles advertisements on Android.

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Jump to a section…

What is an Android advertising ID?
How does the limit ad tracking work on Android?
How does it compare to Limit Ad Tracking on iOS?
Why is this important now?
Challenges of Android advertising restrictions and how Vungle can help

What is an Android Advertising ID?

An Android Advertising ID (AAID), also called Google Advertising ID (GAID), is a unique string of characters associated with every single Android device. Though an Android Advertising ID doesn’t carry any personal information in and of itself, the ID can nonetheless be used to identify usage patterns as part of an external data platform such as the device owner’s app preferences, online browsing habits, or how long it’s been since they checked their online shopping cart.

Having all this information associated with a single Google Advertising ID has historically allowed advertisers to target specific ads to individuals based on their overall profile, not just whatever particular piece of content they may be engaged with at the time. For instance, someone who recently searched for nearby grocery stores might see ads for meal kit delivery services on their social media timeline. The Android Advertising ID is also used for attribution, which is key to user acquisition and is also put to work for broader purposes such as fraud detection.

How does the limit ad tracking work on Android?

Thanks to the Google Play services update that first rolled out in 2021, Android users who navigate to the Ads subsection of their device’s Privacy settings now have two options to alter their Android Advertising ID. The first is to reset the device’s advertising ID, which essentially wipes the slate clean of data accumulated up to that point. Their new ID will still amass behavioral information for advertisers, but none of it will be associated with any of the info gathered before the reset.

The second option is to delete the advertising ID entirely, also known as “zeroing” it out. The owner of the device will still see ads, but the lack of the corresponding AAID for sites and apps to reference means these ads must either rely on other means of targeting or simply serve more generic options. This can result in advertisements that are less personalized and, if no other targeting criteria are employed, less effective for advertisers.

It’s important to review these options in context, however. According to a June 2021 study, only about 2% of Android users had taken the time to navigate through their device’s settings menus and adjust their ad privacy options. On top of that, the change to AAID only currently affects devices running Android 12, the latest version of the operating system. More than half of Android users are still on Android 11 or 10, with older operating systems accounting for a third of them. That said, Google plans to roll out the same requirements for all Google-Play-supported Android devices starting April 2022.

How does it compare to Limit Ad Tracking on iOS?

People who enable the limit ad tracking Android option will see largely the same effect as those who do so on iOS. The biggest difference between the two is that iOS users must now specifically consent to have their device’s ID tracked on an app-by-app basis. No such app-by-app permission requirements have been implemented by Google, nor has the tech giant announced any intention to do so in the future.

Only about 21% of iOS users opted in to allow app tracking as of September 2021, though that number had nearly doubled from the proportion who opted in when iOS 14.5 launched in April 2021. This difference in implementation appears to be making a massive difference in how frequently the equivalent limit ad tracking options are used from one mobile platform to another.

Why is this important now?

The proportion of Android users who have decided to disallow device ID tracking has seemingly remained small, but the number is poised to grow in April 2022 when the changes roll out to all Android devices, not just those running on Android 12. It’s clear that the number of people opting out of device ID tracking will only increase from here on out, though it seems likely to be a more gradual change for the Android market.

This will be a particularly important transition for global advertisers to keep in mind, given the fact that Android has held on to roughly 70 percent of the global market share for mobile operating systems with little variance since 2017. With even more people likely to soon opt out of having a unique Android Advertising ID associated with their device, advertisers will need to find new solutions to make up the difference or risk being left behind.

Challenges of Android advertising restrictions and how Vungle can help

These changes across Android as well as iOS mean many traditional mobile ad platforms are being left with fewer ways of serving the right ads to the right people. An Android Advertising ID or iOS Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) allows such platforms to place ads where they have the best chance to perform based on behavioral data. Now that these identifiers are becoming less of a given, targeting ads based on contextual criteria is ever more essential.

Fortunately, Vungle is already positioned to help advertisers come out of these major mobile transitions even stronger than before. The detailed contextual data of GameRefinery by Vungle combined with the machine-learning power of AlgoLift by Vungle puts us in the ideal position to push better ad performance more quickly and reliably than other mobile ad networks.

Partnering with Vungle means putting a collection of specific and powerful marketing signals to work for every campaign, helping to judge future value while optimizing user acquisition. Even beyond finding the right placements, integrated ad intelligence and automated bid management make Vungle the best growth partner for the latest chapter of mobile advertising.

Want to find out more? Contact us today to get started.