Reddit will now force targeted ads on everyone as the site becomes increasingly monetized

A phone screen showing a sad version of the Reddit logo
(Image credit: Future)

An official post from the head of Privacy at Reddit detailed the social media site’s upcoming plans for how advertisers can track users’ activity, and changes to privacy settings.

The short of it is that users will no longer be able to choose whether Reddit advertisers track you based on your site activity. In fact, comparing the handy ‘before’ and ‘after’ screenshots the post provided, we can see that most privacy settings have been gutted including ‘Personalize all of Reddit based on the outbound links you click on,’ ‘based on your Reddit activity and account info,’ ‘based on your general location,’ and ‘ads/recommendations based on your activity with our partners.’

This leaves only ‘Personalized ads on Reddit based on information and activity from our partners’ in most regions, with an additional option allowing for ‘your activity on Reddit’ to be toggled off in certain areas that weren’t specified in the post. Most likely those would be European countries protected under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which legally requires Reddit to offer privacy settings that protect user data.

Reddit also stated that it’ll be rolling out controls to limit certain categories of advertisements, which you can see below.

Reddit options for sensitive content

(Image credit: Reddit)

It’s the ability to see fewer ads, which means some will inevitably leak through, though the site maintains that since it’s using a combination of “manual tagging and machine learning to classify the ads” it won’t be completely accurate. 

The current categories that can be found in the Safety & Privacy section of User Settings are alcohol, dating, gambling, pregnancy and parenting, and weight loss. Religion, however, is absent from that category list. 

Reddit is becoming increasingly user-unfriendly 

For months now, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has been trying to increase revenue from the site — revenue that it already received from users’ unpaid labor mind you — via an increasing number of anti-user moves. The most notable is gutting third-party API services from the site in order to peddle its own inferior first-party options, which resulted in blackout protests that lasted weeks (until the CEO forcibly reopened the blacked-out subreddits).

Now Reddit has decided that users shouldn’t have the right to control how their collected data is used, with the majority of options replaced by a single extremely vague toggle that could cover anything and nothing at all. And you can tell that the GDPR has the site by the throat, or it wouldn’t even offer the extra toggle “in select locations.” 

Another issue is that the sensitive advertisements categories only limit how many ads you see and don’t allow for their complete removal. Also note that religion is not one of these categories, which is at the very least a massive oversite. But if we were to be a bit more cynical about that, it’s most likely due to religious ads being a major revenue source and therefore Reddit has no motivation to restrict them at all.

And the centralization and capitalization of the internet marches on.

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Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.