5 billion ad events show that fewer than 1% of Android users opt out of personalized ads

By John Koetsier January 26, 2023

We’re now in the era of privacy in mobile adtech. Apple and Google kicked it off in 2012 and 2013, respectively, with Limit Ad Tracking on iOS and a toggle to turn off Ad Personalization on Android. Apple upped the ante in 2021 with iOS 14.5 and App Tracking Transparency, which makes the iOS ad identifier (IDFA) rare, while Google will roll out Privacy Sandbox for Android in late 2023 and into 2024, which will make the Android ad identifier (GAID) extinct.

Limit Ad Tracking is now part of history, having been replaced by App Tracking Transparency. 

But before it did, LAT limited advertiser visibility on users’ ad actions significantly, hitting 31.5% in the U.S. and a global average of 15.61%. This was a rare instance of the U.S. leading the world in privacy: usually Europe is much more privacy-conscious.

ad personalization android

But people anywhere on the planet opting out of ad personalization on Android was extremely rare in 2020. Only 2.3% of people opted out in the U.S., while just 3.14% in Germany, 1.4% in India, and 3% of people in France switched the toggle to stop ad personalization on.

Where are those numbers now in 2023?

Ads personalization on Android: what 5 billion events show

Ads personalization on Android has changed somewhat over the last few releases of the Android operating system. From a toggle to opt in or out of ad personalization the control has been split into two binary options:

  1. Reset your advertising ID (this restarts your device’s digital breadcrumb trail, so to speak)
  2. Delete advertising ID (this removes the GAID entirely, meaning ads can no longer use it to show personalized ads and — though this part isn’t mentioned — track your activity around the digital ecosystem)

Either option is easy to do, though finding the right place to do it might take a few moments of searching.

Few people, however, bother. In fact, almost everyone opts in.

ad personalization android

We queried data from over 5 billion ad events on Android smartphones last week: mostly ad impressions, some clicks, some app installs. Out of this massive number, only 9.2 million were from devices that opted out of tracking by deleting the Google ad ID: in other words, saying no to ad personalization on Android.

That’s a miniscule .18%.

Devices linked to some networks and services opt out much more

While the overall average is tiny, there are specific networks and marketing platforms that engage with devices that are much more likely to have deleted GAIDs. Many of them are from top Chinese phone manufacturers, plus Sony in Japan:

  1. Sony: 5.47%
  2. Xiaomi Global: 4.87%
  3. Samsung: 3.07%
  4. Oppo: 2.07%
  5. Vivo: 1.9%

Others are from ad networks or agencies, typically with business in China or India:

  1. Realme: 2.99%
  2. SingleTap: 2.32%
  3. GMM 1.38%
  4. Cronbay Technologies: 1.08%
  5. Mintegral: .54%

Ignoring some outliers with tiny numbers of events that hit 20% or even over 30%, filtering by ad partners with at least 100,000 events shows that even the most privacy-centric customers in the most privacy-concerned regions rarely delete their Google ad ID.

The one common denominator here is companies that do business in China and India, which seem — at least in the case of ad personalization on Android — to be more privacy focused than the rest of the world. SingleTap is a Digital Turbine technology for instant app installs on Android that bypass Google Play. Cronbay Technologies is an Indian marketing agency. 

In almost no cases do the numbers really approach significance. Even at a 5% opt-out rate, advertisers are still seeing customer journey data on 95% of their potential customers or users, which is more than enough to avoid hampering any ad optimization they wish to do.

What does this low rate mean?

A few things are obvious here. 

People are pretty OK with ad personalization on Android on a global scale.

Either iOS users care a lot more about privacy than Android users in general, or Apple’s positioning on privacy made iPhone owners much more conscious about the technology they can use to restrict access to their data. Their Limit Ad Tracking rates were high on pre-ATT iOS, and their opt-in rates for App Tracking Transparency hover around the 20% range, meaning 80%, the vast majority, decline to allow apps to track them. Given that ATT is a double opt-in scenario requiring a yes on both the publisher and advertiser apps (both the app that carries an ad and the app that the ad advertises) IDFA access on iOS in 2023 is rare.

But Android users opted out of ads personalization infrequently in the older versions of the Android ad ID customization screen, and delete their GAIDs even less frequently now.

A big caveat:

Theoretically, there could be a large cadre of Android users who don’t delete their advertising IDs but simply reset them from time to time. This would enable a limited amount of tracking across digital touchpoints: somewhat helpful for advertisers, and more privacy-enabling for people.

I don’t have the data to either suggest this is the case or disprove it. But it seems unlikely. I only go to my Settings app when needed for some specific reason, not to browse or pass the time or to periodically refresh a setting, and I supposed that most are like me at least in that regard.

What this means for the future of Android is not obvious.

Google will most likely launch Privacy Sandbox for Android late this year or early next. Unlike the iOS ATT, which doesn’t eliminate the IDFA but makes it user-optional, Google’s changes will hard deprecate the ad identifier on Android. So it’s not like Android users’ behavior now will say anything about their behavior under Privacy Sandbox: there will be nothing to grant or deny.

Most likely, what it says is that Google’s increased privacy moves on Android will be well-received by end users, if they even bother to notice.

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