- Google in February will stop providing contextual data about publisher content to advertisers who use its Real-Time Bidding (RTB) platform in Google Ad Manager as the search giant seeks to improve consumer privacy. Google also will update its EU User Consent Policy audit program for publishers and advertisers, along with audits of authorized media buyers, per a blog post by Chetna Bindra, senior product manager of user trust and privacy at Google.
- Contextual data includes descriptions of content on a specific page, website or app, such as "news" or "weather." Advertisers use the information to determine where to place ads to make it more relevant for users while avoiding content that isn't suitable for their brands. The change intends to reduce the possibility that advertisers can associate ad identifiers that track individuals with Google's context categories.
- Google also will continue to cooperate with data protection authorities, such as the Irish Data Protection Commission, on their investigations into data-sharing practices. The company said will continue to ensure that consumers have more privacy protections to let them control how their data is used, and to make the digital ad market more transparent, per Google.
Google's pending removal of contextual data about publisher content isn't likely to have a profound effect on marketers because its content categories are so broad they aren't especially useful for ad targeting. "News" and "weather," for example, can describe a wide variety of content that appears on websites and apps. Google Ad Manager isn't integrated with third-party contextual ad vendors like Oracle Data Cloud's Grapeshot or Peer39, making contextual data less important in ad targeting, AdExchanger reported. Contextual data providers typically give information on publisher content based on a website address or app bundle ID.
The tech giant has been under pressure to develop stricter privacy controls, especially after the European Union began enforcing its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018. France in January fined Google $57 million for allegedly violating the EU's online privacy rules, claiming that the search company lacked transparency, didn't clearly inform users about its handling of personal data and failed to receive informed consent for personalized ads. Google had planned to appeal the ruling, Politico reported.
Privacy issues also have dogged Google in the U.S. The company in September agreed to pay a record $170 million fine to settle allegations by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the New York Attorney General that its YouTube video-sharing platform had illegally collected personal information from children without their parents' consent. Google was accused of violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) for hosting video channels directed at children under age 13, per the FTC.