Tech giant Google has improved their user control of advertising. Google is letting people opt-out of several advertisement categories, including alcohol. But Google doesn’t guarantee users won’t see any ads in that category after opting out but rather they will see less of these types of ads.
Google had improved their user control on adveritsing exposure based on user surveys and what is considered sensitive categories according to Google’s research.
When users were asked what advertising categories would they most like to opt out of alcohol and gambling came up the highest.
It means most Google users didn’t want to see alcohol and gambling ads and wanted a way to limit their exposure. The next four categories were parenting, pregnancy, dating and weight loss.
From December 2020, Google users in the United States (U.S.) got the feature to opt out of ads on YouTube that promote alcohol or gambling. Now, people worldwide can opt out of alcohol and gambling ads as well as the four new categories parenting, pregnancy, dating and weight loss. This opt out applies across Google’s ad ecosystem.
Karin Hennessy, Google’s group product manager for ads privacy said the company intends to add more categories over time but must conduct research and improve the back-end technology.
While these controls will limit what kind of ads people see it probably does not limit how much data Google collects from users.
Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the digital rights advocacy group Center for Digital Democracy thinks these new controls are not enough. He said targeted behavioral advertising should be opt-in, not opt-out. He also points out that it’s unlikely the controls don’t serve Google’s financial interest in the end.
Google’s new ad controls for users come while U.S. lawmakers push to regulate Big Tech.
As Movendi International has previously reported, Big Tech – including social media companies – collect millions of data points on users which are then used by other health harmful industries like Big Alcohol to target people.
A report by VicHealth, the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), and the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) found that by the time a child is 13 years old an estimated 72 million data points will have been collected by companies on that child.
The report exposed that 940,000 children were marked as interested in alcohol products in 2018.
Major public outcry following these findings forced Facebook to change its advertising limits. Facebook stopped allowing advertisers to target children based on their interests. However, Facebook has not committed to stop collecting data and profiling children as interested in harmful products. This means once children become 18 years unhealthy industries such as alcohol will obtain ready-made profiles on targeting youth.
For a long time Big Tech companies, including social media companies such as Facebook, have allowed unhealthy industries to target children to maximize profit. Unhealthy industries have continued to do so profiting at the cost of health and well-being of children.
Public health advocates have called for public oversight on how people are targeted online, including advertising of harmful products like alcohol, other drugs and gambling. There is a need to reduce the massive data collection by social media companies and unhealthy industries, including Big Alcohol, that use this data for their advertising.
It is imperative that children are protected from targeting on social media. Measures need to be taken by governments to ensure social media companies do not collect children’s data for targeted advertising and that advertisers do not get access to children’s data.