Many of us must at some time or another have squinted suspiciously at our screen while performing a search and wondered just why Google’s showing us this particular ad.
Now, presumably hoping to allay the fears of the paranoid – as well as of industry privacy watchdogs – the company says it can tell you.
Through its ‘Why these ads?’ feature, Google will reveal to users the logic behind personalized ads on Google search and Gmail. Users need simply to click on a new link by the ad.
In essence, the company uses picks up on key words that are used, geographic location and other indicators such as previous searches the user has made.
“If you’re searching for a local restaurant while you’re on vacation in Hawaii, you would see ads for restaurants that are nearby, rather than restaurants in your hometown,” says Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising.
“Or if you’re researching flat-panel televisions, and performing a series of similar searches in quick succession, you could see ads based on the query that you just entered, or based on a few recent and related queries within a single browser session.”
If you don’t like what you see, it’s also possible to use Google’s Ad Preferences Manager to selectively block any advertiser you want.
There’s also the option to opt out of personalized ads altogether, which has the – for most people – pleasant side effect of cutting the number of ads displayed by nearly a quarter.
Google’s frequently been accused of – and investigated for – snaffling up excessive amounts of user data and handing it over to advertisers. The moves could help the company considerably in its efforts to persuade users that it’s really not a Big Brother figure.