Google Increases Ads Transparency for Consumers

A Google-sponsored privacy powwow kicked off this morning in Mexico City, where numerous major players are convening to discuss consumer data and advertising. So it’s not a coincidence that Google yesterday announced that consumers will have new access to information about how they are targeted with ads on its network.

In the coming weeks, Google.com and Gmail.com viewers will see hyperlinked “Why these ads” copy next to paid promotions on the sites. When they click on the link, they will be able to see what kind of data was used to target the ad. According to a Google blog post, the information will educate users about why they get, for instance, targeted with ads by Dallas restaurants while visiting the city on a business trip. In another example, it can show them that searching for football tickets helped produce the StubHub ad they’re seeing.

Jules Polonetsky, director of the Future of Privacy Forum, suggested the move by Google may be the next step forward when considering how the search giant and other major Internet players like Facebook and Yahoo have allowed users to see their data profiles. While suggesting those iterations have been clunky from the user perspective, Polonetsky sounded hopeful that the new Google utility would be sleeker.

“The key will be how well it is executed,” he said. “If there is actually a path for users to see something that is interesting and controllable, it should do a good deal in helping demystify the concerns that exist around ad targeting today. But it will have to be a useful payoff.”

Polonetsky spoke with ClickZ News this afternoon from the aforementioned conference in Mexico, the 33rd International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners. In addition to Google, other sponsors include Microsoft, HP, Oracle, Dell, Intel, and Symantec.

“Anybody who is anybody in privacy is here hobnobbing and trying to solve the world’s problems,” Polonetsky said. “Google in the past has had announcements timed to when folks are gathering and paying attention.”

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