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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Google users can now block any online advertisement

Alphabet’s Google which netted $95.4bn in ad revenue last year is treading carefully amid heightening scrutiny of how companies are using personal information of consumers  

The world's largest digital ad seller is shifting gears and allowing users to restrict advertisements. Dado Ruvic/Reuters
The world's largest digital ad seller is shifting gears and allowing users to restrict advertisements. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

It happens all the time: search for some product online, and suddenly advertisements for that item follow you everywhere around the web.

Google will now let you banish those for good.

The world’s largest digital ad-seller is expanding a set of controls that let people restrict particular ads and personal-targeting criteria. Alphabet’s Google has since 2012 built a “mute” feature to help users opt out of certain types of banner ads. Now, the search giant is expanding that to its entire ad suite, including on YouTube and Gmail. User will be able to restrict specific brands or companies, like an apparel or camera maker, and instead be shown alternative ads.

Google, which netted $95.4 billion in ad sales last year, has a vested interest in keeping users satisfied with the frequency and content of online marketing. But it’s treading more cautiously given heightening scrutiny of how internet giants use personal information to target consumers.

“Billions of people trust us with their data every day,” said Brad Bender, the vice president who runs Google’s display ads business. “We have a strong incentive to be clear about what we collect to make our services, including ads, better for users.”

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The expanded muting features arrive via a new online portal called Ad Settings, where Google explains how it targets marketing and what online behavior it tracks. While it’s faced less political pressure than primary rival Facebook, Google’s privacy policies have come under fire in the European Union.

Google estimates people muted five billion ads online last year; they’ll now be able to tune out far more. Users however need to be logged into their Google accounts to enjoy carte blanche in restricting ads across both mobile and desktop devices, Bender said. Logged-in users help Google better compete with Facebook for ad dollars.

But the new features are designed to encourage people to manage the ads they see rather than outright ban them -- the company remains sensitive to any uptick in people installing ad blockers on their phones or computers. Bender said he doesn’t expect the muting ability to dampen ad sales. Instead, marketers could glean a more accurate snapshot of what types of ads annoy people and not just which ones they click on. “It actually enables them to get more efficiency over time,” he said.