Following scrutiny for its data protection practices, Google will be taking an additional step to further guard user privacy by restricting the amount of data advertisers have access to.

Starting in February 2020, the company will stop advertisers from viewing information on websites a user has visited, preventing them from tying sensitive searches, such as religion, politics and sexual orientation, to individual users. 

"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," says Google in a blog post

While Google already prohibits advertisers from using its services to build user profiles around sensitive categories, this change will help avoid the risk that any participant in auctions is able to associate individual ad identifiers with Google’s contextual content categories, says Google. Content categories, Google explains, 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.

Google says it will update its EU User Consent Policy audit program for publishers and advertisers and audits for the Authorized Buyers program and continue to engage with data protection authorities. In addition, Google says they 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.