Mar 10th 2022

The Complete Guide to User Privacy and Ad Targeting on Android

Leverage the App Set ID, contextual advertising, and more to thrive in the new era of Android advertising.

In April 2021, the ground rules of mobile advertising changed significantly: Apple introduced their updated App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, forcing mobile marketers on the iOS ecosystem to adapt or fall behind. As expected, the move has pushed the other massive player in this space, Google, to tighten their approach to user privacy on Android. And once again, mobile marketers need to adapt.

From unpacking the recent shift to exploring new tactics, this is your guide to the new era of Android advertising.

Jump to a section…

What is Android Advertising ID (AAID)?
How the Android user privacy landscape has changed
How these changes impact ads personalization
Limit Ad Tracking on iOS versus Android: What’s the difference?
How will this play out over the near future?
How to leverage the App Set ID for mobile marketing?
Preparing for a post-AAID world

What is Android Advertising ID (AAID)?

The Android Advertising ID (AAID) is a 32-digit-character fingerprint that every Android device has. Google debuted AAIDs in 2013 to provide users with increased control over the ads they saw and supply mobile marketers with an effective targeting solution. Users can refresh or delete their AAIDs via the settings section of their device. This won’t stop them from seeing ads, but it will affect the data mobile marketers can use to target them.

For a deeper dive into AAID, its use in digital marketing, and how that use is changing, read What Is Android Advertising ID (AAID)?

How the Android user privacy landscape has changed

While, as we have mentioned, Android users are already able to manage much of how mobile marketers could leverage their devices’ AAID, there were limits to what they could control. Mobile marketers could still tap user AAIDs as sources for internal analytics, fraud prevention information, and other purposes. In June 2021, Google announced that it would be updating their user tracking opt-out policies. By the end of 2021, Google explained that user advertising opt-outs would completely zero out a user’s AAID, making it completely impossible to use.

In addition to this major change, Google has also introduced a new Privacy Dashboard and revised locational services. The Privacy Dashboard gives users a direct line of sight into their apps’ usage of their device’s camera, contacts, files, and more. Users now have much more power over the locational features of their devices. They can control exactly when the app uses their location and how precise the location data they share is.

How these changes impact ads personalization

The new privacy regime will have a fairly significant effect on user data availability. If a user decides to opt out from tracking, their usage data will be completely inaccessible by the app developer and impossible to obtain via a third-party provider.

Does this mean the era of ad personalization is dead? Not at all. As more users lock down their usage data, contextual advertising will become the dominant method of driving ad targeting. This means skillfully leveraging a host of other data — like app genre or language — to infer what kinds of ads the user would be receptive to.

Google has also made sure to account for AAID’s other uses, such as fraud prevention, by introducing App Set ID. This privacy-friendly option allows developers to track usage across a developers app portfolio, but Google explicitly forbids tapping it for “ads personalization or ads measurement” — and created an auto-reset contingency based on user engagement.

If you want to learn more about how Google’s privacy shift is changing ad personalization, check out Ads Personalization on Android: What Marketers Need to Know.

Limit Ad Tracking on iOS versus Android: What’s the difference?

Except for one major caveat, Limit Ad Tracking across the two mobile app ecosystems is generally the same. On iOS, users make their opt-out decision on every app individually. Google, on the other hand, does not get so granular with the permissioning, and they don’t seem like they plan to anytime soon.

It’s important to note that the way tech companies approach implementing these changes has a reasonably significant impact on user behavior. When Apple rolled out iOS version 14.5, a non-auto update, in April of 2021, only 11% of users consented to tracking. By September 2021 that figure had nearly doubled after 14.6 went live.

How will this play out over the near future?

While the number of Android users who have opted out of tracking is relatively low, that figure will likely grow in spring 2022. In April 2022, Google will be introducing these privacy updates across all Android devices. This will likely cause a spike in opt-outs, adding fuel to the continued decline of user tracking data availability on the ecosystem.

This trend is something that all advertisers — especially those that cater to the global market — should keep tabs on. Android has owned around 70% of the global mobile OS market share for more than five years, meaning that decaying user tracking data on this ecosystem has the potential to have an even greater impact on advertisers than Apple’s changes. For those who have built their advertising strategy around AAID, the time to diversify their targeting strategy is now.

Interested in understanding the entire world of Limit Ad Tracking? Explore the article we wrote dedicated to the topic, What Is Limit Ad Tracking on Android?

How to leverage the App Set ID for mobile marketing?

While we already touched on App Set ID above, let’s explore the tool in more detail and outline some of its potential advertising uses.

Much like Apple’s IDFV, App Set ID provides publishers with a way of tracking Android users across their app portfolios. Although much more limited than AAID, this data can still be a rich source of user information for publishers — especially those with a diverse app portfolio. While Google notes that the App Set ID can be used for “analytics or fraud prevention,” it could also be deployed effectively in cross-promotional strategies. Publishers could use certain high-volume, low-friction apps as entry points, then drive them through the rest of their portfolio using App Set ID data.

To explore more marketing applications of the App Set ID, read What Is App Set ID on Android and What Can It Be Used For?

Preparing for a post-AAID world

As the cornerstone user-identifiers are gradually fazed out, advertisers need to get innovative when it comes to ad targeting — and find partners that can make navigating the transition easy.

With a decade of experience in the mobile advertising space, Vungle has the tools that can help you thrive in a post-AAID world. One of the most powerful is GameRefinery by Vungle. This innovative contextual ad intelligence platform allows advertisers to create and run precision-targeted campaigns by leveraging thousands of exclusive data points. Contact us today to learn more.

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