Google quietly updated its Sensitive ads categories to now include dating, pregnancy/parenting, and weight-loss topics on top of gambling and alcohol.
This means that users will be able to limit the exposure they get from, in part, ads on YouTube based on these topics. The purpose of these controls is to give people the ability to protect themselves from possibly traumatic subjects.
YouTube ad control
If you’re interested in turning on these controls, they can be found at the bottom of your Google account’s Ad Settings. You’ll see a “See fewer” button next to the topic. Clicking will enable the feature to filter out most of the ads. You’ll still see them, just less often.
Do note that the filters are in beta, and exclusive to YouTube videos and targeted ads from the Google Ads program. It won’t filter out Google Search results. Google’s Ads Help support page further clarifies how the filter works. It’ll prevent advertisers from showing you personalized ads, but it won’t stop anything tangentially related.
For example, you may see an ad for a restaurant chain where it shows people drinking beer or a couple on a date. While that ad shows the “Sensitive topics”, they are not the focus, so you’ll see them.
As for why these four topics, Karin Hennessy, Google’s Group Product Manager for Privacy & User Trust, explained them to the Washington Post.
Hennessy stated these five categories were chosen due to user surveys the company conducted. Alcohol and gambling were the top two and “the very next four categories were parenting, pregnancy, dating and weight loss.”
Alcohol and gambling filters were introduced back in late 2020 and have been in beta since. Google has expressed interest in continuing to improve these controls. However, it’s unknown if these filters will ever make their way to Search results.
Power to the user
This still begs the question of why Google decided to do this in the first place, considering its penchant for pushing targeted ads in the past.
The Democrats in the US House and Senate drafted a bill that would outright ban targeted ads for good earlier this year. Google is aware of this criticism and even starts its 2020 Ad Settings post talking about user transparency and control.