Google is expanding its options for sensitive ad categories, allowing users to limit the number of ads about dating, pregnancy, parenting, and weight loss, and apply these settings to more places. The feature was introduced as a way to get people to see fewer ads on YouTube about potentially addictive gambling or alcoholic products, but now it looks like Google is expanding it to other potentially inconvenient or traumatic topics.
Your settings now apply to the entire Google Display network, not just YouTube ads, said Elijah Lawal, a company spokesperson. Google says the network is “a group of more than 2 million websites, videos and apps” that advertisers can target users to.
To access the feature, go to your ad settings page and scroll to “Sensitive ad categories on YouTube”. From there, you can click the “See less” button next to the categories you want. The page warns you that you will still see the same number of ads and asks you to confirm the choice. You can also “allow” categories that you have previously restricted in the past.
Google’s support page for the sensitive ad category feature states that while fewer ads should show for products in each category you’ve restricted, the topics may still show in other ads. It gives the example of ‘an ad from an airline in which someone drinks a glass of champagne’. The company also notes that it “don’t allow advertisers to personalize ads based on certain topics, such as alcohol and gambling, but you may see ads about these things based on related interests,” such as beer makers targeting sports fans.
While gambling and drinking probably aren’t common in general public advertising, some of the newly added categories may be harder to avoid. An ad for chewing gum might feature people in a relationship, or an ad for razors might conjure up the idea of fatherhood. Google’s support page means you can still see these kinds of ads even if you’ve asked to restrict them – you just shouldn’t be getting ads for, say, a dating app or diapers (unless, of course, the video you look has a sponsor spot for those things that are ingrained).
Even with those limitations, it’s good to see Google working to give people “more control over their ad experience,” as Karin Hennessy, the company’s product manager for ad privacy, put it in an emailed statement to The edge. It’s the kind of improvement that’s good for Google and its users; you can choose to see fewer ads that might make you uncomfortable, and advertisers can better target a more receptive audience.
Hennessy also said that Google will “continue to listen to user feedback and study which categories this feature should expand to in the future.”