Google’s My Activity tool will allow users to choose how the company uses their activity to serve ads through its site and third-party sites.
Google recently released a new service that will both increase its data tracking, and yet make it easier for users to control how that data tracking is used. The company has long tracked user searches and activity across its websites, search, YouTube, Google News, and used cookies to track activity on third-party sites. Now, Google wants to end the use of cookie tracking and allow users to opt-in to full monitoring across the web with the benefit that users can control how the data is used and gain more options for limiting and blocking annoying ads.
The new tool called My Activity creates a one-stop shop for Google account holders to see and edit the information Google tracks as they surf the web. Users who opt-in will allow the tech company to follow their activity on Google properties as well as third-party websites and apps.
This information will be used to provide more targeted ads to users throughout their Internet travels; it can also be a useful reference for users who want to see where they’ve been on the web.
It isn’t clear how the new offering will impact Google’s ad revenue or if it will be integrated with its DoubleClick ad sales, but it is likely that the company will find ways to monetize the activity of users who opt-in.
Over the past few years, consumers have begun to express their dislike for the current ad formats and ad tracking in particular. People often complain about social media or to friends about the ad that keeps following them around the Internet. A search for sore throat remedies can lead to a slew of NyQuil ads, a search for more significant ticket items like a car can mean months of car ads hounding you across the Internet. The situation has gotten so bad; The New York Times published a piece on how to avoid ad tracking.
At the beginning of this year, The Guardian published an article asking “Will 2018 be the year web advertisers realize we don’t want to be monitored?” In a way, Google’s new feature answers this question, the company recognizes the “creepy” factor of extensive tracking, but it also believes in the benefits, more personalized ads and targeted suggestions.
The company is turning the question back to consumers with My Activity, trying to offer a benefit, a personalized Ad experience across the web, while also giving them control, you need to opt-in and if/once you were opt-in, you can control the ad experience.
“The fact that it’s an option, and that the user has to think through some of the accounts, and ad, and other implications of it, is the best thing about it,” Brenda Leong, of the Future of Privacy Forum, a think tank, told Wired.
Controlling the ad experience is the key to Google’s new offering. And at its heart, it is a fight against ad blocking. Google has recognized that if ad serving continues the way it is more and more users will join the more than 420 million smartphone users and 200 million desktop users who block ads, a number that keeps increasing at a dizzying rate each year.
Using Google’s My Activity hub, a user can nix a specific ad, perhaps making an ad blocker unnecessary. Bought that car, you can stop the car ads. A sore throat cleared up, no more NyQuil following you on the Internet. Overall, Google gains a great deal of additional information from users who opt-in, while giving them slightly more control over the ad experience. People concerned about privacy will probably not want to opt-in, but those who enjoy getting served personal ads and want more control will want to opt-in.