Google Is Working On A Product To Give Users More Control Over The Ads They See (On Google Only)

Google is launching a new preference center so people can more easily manage their privacy settings, opt out of personalized advertising and specify whether they want to see fewer (or more, ha) ads on a given topic.

Google is launching a new preference center so people can more easily manage their privacy settings, opt out of personalized advertising and specify whether they want to see fewer (or more, ha) ads on a given topic.

It’s a bit like AdChoices for Google-only properties, but prettier and with more bells and whistles, including the option to control the data used to target people and the content of the ads they see.

The product, which Google is calling My Ad Center, will be available globally later this year and replaces the existing “About This Ad” feature, which shows information to logged-in users about why they’re seeing an ad and the verified name of the advertiser behind each ad.

The preferences people log through the tool will apply to the ads they see across apps and sites across Google Search, YouTube and in their Discover feed – but will not affect targeting via the Google Display Network.

Eventually, Google plans to release My Ad Center controls to all Google owned-and-operated properties, including Gmail.

Google is under increasingly heavy pressure from governments and data regulators around the world, especially in Europe, to align its data collection practices with EU privacy regulations.

But the purpose of the new hub isn’t about regulatory compliance, said David Temkin, Google’s senior director of product management for ads privacy and user trust.

“It’s not about checking a box,” Temkin said. “We’re building something for users.”

Control panel

Users will be able to access the center by clicking or tapping on the three-dots menu beside every ad served on a Google property.

Once they do, they’ll be presented with a handful of options, such as saying whether they want to see fewer or more ads about certain topics and from specific brands.

For example, an ad for a seltzer brand would be categorized under the topic “beverages.” Users who want to see more or fewer beverage ads can hit a plus or minus sign to register their preference. If they do or don’t want to see ads from that specific seltzer brand, they can log that information, too.

Users will also be able to (deep breath) block or report ads, see who paid for an ad, get an explanation for why they’re seeing a certain ad, view the categories associated with an ad, turn off personalized ads, update their Google account information (gender, age, language, relationship status, location and any other info used to personalize ads), choose which specific topics they want to see more or fewer ads about and place limits on ads related to sensitive categories.

My Ad Center is a bit like AdChoices for Google-only properties, but prettier and with more bells and whistles, including the option to control the data used to target people and the content of the ads they see.Over the past two years, Google has introduced a series of features that let people limit the number of personalized ads they see related to alcohol, gambling, pregnancy, parenting, dating, weight loss and other such sensitive stuff.

Although none of the preference data shared by users will be available to advertisers for targeting, there is nuance there. The choices users make in the My Ad Center will affect how ads are targeted. If someone doesn’t want to see ads from Hypothetical Seltzer Brand, for instance, they won’t be in the targeting pool for that advertiser.

But if they do want to see more from that brand or see ads related to a certain category, it doesn’t mean they’ll be bombarded, Temkin said.

“It doesn’t directly affect frequency capping,” he said. “The likelihood of that ad being selected will be nudged up or down.”

The future, according to Google

Going forward, Temkin said, there will be two primary ways that people control their ad experiences online.

One will be directly through a given site or app (like My Ad Center), and the other will be at the platform level (via a technology like the Topics API that’s being incubated in the Privacy Sandbox). Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency framework would also fall in the latter category.

While that represents a very platform-based or Google-centric view of the future, it does seem to be where the puck is going.

The end of cross-site tracking “necessitates the kind of change we’re looking at here,” Temkin said.

“And we’ve taken that as an opportunity to go deep on giving users what they want as far as ads in their Google experience,” he said.

‘It’s overdue’

But Google’s approach does beg the question: Do people actually want to control their privacy preferences in this way? Cue the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That” meme.

According to Google, users have shared feedback that they want to “feel a sense of control over their experience,” said Breonna Danielle Rodriguez-Delgrosso, Google’s lead UX designer for ads privacy and safety.

“They appreciate having access to the data controls, in particular,” Rodriguez-Delgrosso said. “And they’re signaling back to us that it’s nice to be a part of the conversation on what they want to see, what’s meaningful to you, what brands are meaningful – and having the agency in order to make those choices.”

“It’s overdue,” she said.

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