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Safety & Security

Your top questions about ads privacy at Google, answered

A screen with multiple images and texts showing the importance of ad safety online

Every day, people all over the world use the internet to search, learn, explore and connect. You may have wondered why you see specific ads online, how your data is used for ads and how you can control your privacy.

If you’ve found yourself asking these types of questions, you’re not alone. In 2022, searches for ads privacy were at an all time high.1 A 2022 study we commissioned showed that 80% of consumers2 are concerned about the state of their online privacy. We know there's a lot of information out there and it can feel mysterious. So today, we're answering some of your most common questions.

1. Why does Google serve ads?

Ads fund a wide array of helpful Google products that people love and use everyday like Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube or Google Search. Advertising revenue is an important way for content creators and publishers to finance their businesses without charging you directly, meaning more people get to access quality content online. Ads also play a big role in the offline world, providing opportunities for small business owners to reach customers, near or far.

2. Why does Google use my information to show me ads?

We don’t always use your information to show relevant ads, but Google may use your information to select ads we think are aligned to your interests or to help you discover something new. For example, if you’re researching new cars, it’s more useful to see ads featuring promotions from local car dealers than to see generic ads for balcony furniture or pet food. You're always in control of your information with easy-to-use privacy tools, and it's always your choice to share your information with Google and decide how it's used for advertising.

3. What information does Google use to personalize the ads I see?

We use your activity on Google – like sites you visit, apps you use, and things you’ve searched for – to deliver better, more helpful experiences across our products, including ads. We never use your sensitive information such as health, race, religion or sexual orientation to tailor the ads you see. Depending on your settings, we may show you personalized ads based on your interests. For example, if you search for “mountain bikes,” you may see an ad for sports equipment when you’re watching videos on YouTube. You can change these settings at any time.

4. Where can I see the information Google uses to serve me ads?

You can see what information is used to personalize ads that you see on Google Search, YouTube and Discover in your Google Account (for example, MyActivity). We know that users want control over their ad experience. Now, with My Ad Center, you can see more or less of specific ad topics and brands associated with your account. You can select specific information you do or don't want used to personalize your ads. And you can even let us know if you'd like to not see certain sensitive categories at all, like gambling or alcohol.

5. Does Google sell my personal information to advertisers?

No. We never sell your personal information to anyone. Advertisers can choose specific parameters like demographics or geographic areas that they want to show their ads to and they can reach audiences based on groups of users with similar characteristics or consumers they have direct relationships with.

6. Does Google read my emails or listen to my phone calls to show me ads?

No, we never tailor ads to you based on what you say over the phone and your content in Drive, Gmail and Photos is never used for ads purposes. There are a number of reasons why you may see an ad for a product after discussing it, including the type of websites you visited, apps you have used or a time or day known to be particularly relevant for consumers of a certain product based on past sales data. Or you might have activity on other websites that suggests to those websites or apps what your interests might be.

If an ad is served by Google, you can see why you are seeing a specific ad by clicking on the three vertical dots to load the My Ad Center panel, and then viewing the section “why you’re seeing this ad.”

7. Can I stop seeing personalized ads?

Yes, you can choose to turn personalized ads on or off for Google and partner sites that use Google to show ads. If you choose not to see personalized ads, you’ll still see ads, but they will be less relevant.

Check out My Ad Center to choose the experience that’s right for you, and keep an eye out for more privacy features in the coming months.