Like many adtech providers, we use an advertising technology called Real-Time Bidding (RTB) to enable publishers of all sizes to sell online ad impressions in real time, funding a variety of content such as online journalism, videos and music. On our RTB platform, we’ve taken strong measures to protect user privacy —for instance, we require publishers to obtain consent from users to serve personalized ads, and we apply data minimization practices to the scope of the data shared in RTB bid requests, including truncating device IP addresses and using only resettable user IDs.
On top of these protections, we will now be taking an additional step to further guard user privacy. Following our engagement with data protection authorities, we have decided that beginning in February 2020 we will no longer include contextual content categories in the bid requests we send to buyers participating in our auction.
Content categories are descriptions of the type of content on a specific page, website or app. For example, these categories may indicate whether the content is about news or weather, and are intended to provide contextual information to advertisers about the site or app where the impression may appear. They help advertisers avoid showing ads on certain types of content that aren’t suitable for their brands, or as a way for advertisers to identify types of content where they do want to serve ads.
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. We’ll also update our EU User Consent Policy audit program for publishers and advertisers, as well as our audits for the Authorized Buyers program. And we will 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.
Trust is the foundation of a healthy and sustainable advertising ecosystem. That’s why we’re working across products to ensure that our policies and practices are evolving to reflect people’s changing expectations around how data is collected and used. We will continue to ensure that people’s choices about the use of their data are respected, offer users additional controls, and increase transparency into how digital advertising works.