|Google to Restrict User Information It Gives Advertisers |
Company will stop describing websites where ads will appear; critics call concession ‘a sop’
Updated Nov. 14, 2019 4:02 pm ET
Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) said its ad exchange would stop telling advertisers what categories of websites users are visiting, a concession to European data-protection authorities that have said the company’s real-time ad auctions violate European Union privacy laws.
The changes will affect the process behind the electronic auction that happens in milliseconds to determine which ads show up when users load a website. In that time, hundreds of potential bidders can find out information about users, including their location, the unique number associated with their mobile device and even whether they have been reading about a disease, religion or politics.
After the changes, which take effect in February, advertisers will still have access to data such as locations and unique device numbers, but no longer the contextual category describing the website on which the ad would appear. The address of the website will remain available to advertisers.
The change resulted from discussions with data protection authorities, Google said in a statement. The company, which is undergoing scrutiny from a few European national authorities, declined to single out a single authority connected to the change.
As online ad auctions come under the microscope, Google is facing scrutiny as the largest player in the global ecosystem of digital advertising.