Google has launched a revamped ad settings page, helping users understand and control how ads target them. It’s the latest privacy-focused move from the search giant in light of increasing concerns over how major corporations handle user data.
This page lists a variety of interests that Google has linked to the user through their online habits. Categories could be things like “country music,” “computer hardware,” or “corner shops,” and they appear alongside an estimate of an individual’s age and their sex (if Google is able to identify these).
These are the topics that Google may feature in the ads it shows you.
The website is worth taking a look at even if you don’t want to tweak the settings; just to take a peek at what your online habits may have revealed about you.
If you have a keener interest in what you can do to limit Google ad targeting, though, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to limit ad targeting below.
How to limit or disable ad targeting with Google
Front and center of the Google ad settings page is a section that allows you to turn ad personalization on or off. This is where you decide if you want Google to offer relevant ads based on what it understands about you, or if you want generic ads.
This is not a “yes” or “no” to adverts — you will see Google ads online either way — this is just about making them more or less pertinent.
Another downside to turning off personalization is that you waive any chance to customize the ads. This means that if you were fine with, say, fashion adverts but don’t want to see another energy drink commercial, you won’t be able to make that kind of adjustment.
You may wish to switch it off, however, if you don’t want to be confronted by past interests. It can be annoying to see the last Amazon listing you once checked out pasted across every website you visit — and it can even become a problem if that product was a gift for someone else that uses your device.
What’s more, you may want to avoid the constant reminder that what you do online is tracked. The decision, in the end, is yours.
If you keep ad personalization switched on, you’ll see a list of individual categories (picture above) underneath. These are the topics Google thinks you might be interested in. You can keep them all switched on, should you want to see ads based on all the items listed, but you can also turn off those you don’t want.
Perhaps you’re finished with sports clothing adverts right now — just tap on the “Athletic Apparel” button and hit “turn-off.” While I can’t yet vouch for its effectiveness, this should reduce (or completely eliminate) Google ads regarding athletic clothing.
Keep in mind that these changes won’t affect all the adverts you see online, only the Google ones. As one final caution, don’t be surprised if Google’s suggestions don’t line up exactly with your search habits either.
For example, “boating” is apparently an interest of mine based on my online activities, yet I can’t remember ever searching for something in that area. I have been on boat trips, though (twice in two years, in fact, though I arranged neither). Google stops short of reading your emails, but ads can be based on much of your signed-in activity when using Google services. Maybe Google Maps tracked me down a canal?
That’s one possibility, but whatever the reason, just remember that you won’t be able to avoid targeted ads simply by going in incognito mode in Chrome. Google collects data from videos you watch, searches (including voice) you make, apps you use, things you buy, people you talk to and more. Avoiding it all would be a challenge.
You can learn more about how Google ads work at the link and you can also find out more detailed information on controlling ads at this Google support page. Tell us what you think of its new ad settings page in the comments.