Google Removes Content Categories, Gives Advertisers Other RTB Signals To Protect Consumer Privacy

Google said Thursday it will no longer include contextual content categories in real-time bidding requests for buyers participating in its advertising auction in an effort to protect user privacy.

Advertisers will still have the page URL and AppNames/App ID to evaluate whether the content is safe for their brand to appear alongside and to identify the types of content they want to serve ads on. 

These categories -- which Google will remove -- helped advertisers avoid showing ads on certain types of content that are not suitable for their brands. The categories provide a way for advertisers to identify types of content where they do want to serve ads, such as fake news sites or next to inflammatory content.

Today, Google allows advertisers to see the categories for web or app pages. Subjects range from automotive to substance abuse. The change will stop advertisers from connecting sensitive categories to individuals. 

“The focus on privacy gives Google the perfect cover to raise the walls of their garden so that data goes in and stays in,” said Justin Choi, CEO and Founder of Nativo. “If it were not for the privacy cover, publishers and the ad industry at large would protest these moves as anti-competitive. We are entering a data recession where the data-rich are immune and the data-poor will suffer. Publishers will feel the effects with slowly declining revenues as marketers shift budgets to where data is available.”

One word in the last paragraph in a short, yet informative Google blog post describes it all.

"Trust" remains Google’s favorite word. Google wants advertisers to trust that their ad will land on the page that will produce the highest returns using the headline and body copy that will resonate most.

Beginning in February 2020, Google wants brands to trust that their real-time bidding technology will deliver the advertisements without knowing the types of content on the specific page, but use other technology such as the page URL and APpNames/App ID.

“While we already prohibit advertisers from using our services to build user profiles around sensitive categories, this change will help avoid the risk that any participant in our auctions is able to associate individual ad identifiers with Google’s contextual content categories,” wrote Chetna Bindra, senior product manager of trust and privacy at Google.

Google also plans to update its EU User Consent Policy audit program for publishers and advertisers, as well as our audits for the Authorized Buyers program, and continue to engage with "data protection authorities, including the Irish Data Protection Commission as they continue their investigation into data protection practices in the context of Authorized Buyers."

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