Advertising on the web can be intrusive, and nothing intrudes like an ad custom tailored to show you something you glanced at before.
What's worse, sometimes the ads aren't even relevant to your tastes—maybe you were looking at a gift idea for someone else and now you're seeing it everywhere.
Privacy concerns aside, targeted advertising is big business, and Google Ad Services customers use them frequently to remind internet users to complete purchases, revisit items, and close the deal on their digital window shopping.
Reminder ads on Google Ad Services work like this: You visit a website, and it makes a record that you were there. It hands that record off to Google, which customizes ads for you based on what you did while browsing its client's website.
It's a great system for Google and its advertisers, but the company also knows that users may not be fond of what can seem to be intrusive advertising. So Google is now adding the ability to opt out of reminder ads.
Opting out of Google reminder ads
The process for opting out of reminder ads from Google Ad Services is pretty straightforward, provided you have a Google account.
Start by signing in to your Google account. Once the main account page loads, look for Ads Settings in the middle column (Personal Info & Privacy) and click on it.
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Scroll down under Ads Settings and you should see a section called Your Reminder Ads, though don't be alarmed if it's not there yet: Our sister site ZDNet points out that Google is rolling the feature out over the next few months.
Under Your Reminder Ads will be a list of every website you've visited that participates in Google's reminder ads program. You'll have to click through each site one by one and remove them from Your Reminder Ads.
They never said it was going to be convenient.
Not a complete solution to targeted advertising
There are a couple major caveats to disabling reminder ads from Google.
First off, it only applies to reminder ads served by Google Ad Services. Other ad networks aren't held to the same rules, so you may continue to get reminder ads from other companies—or even the same ones—which use different ad providers.
Second, the removal only lasts for 90 days, and then a removed company is free to target you again. Google said that reminder ads tend to expire well before 90 days: They're designed to target on-the-fence buyers. So, if you remove a company and don't visit it again you (ideally) won't see its reminders after that period expires.
If you really want to control your advertising experience, be prepared to log in to your Google account every 90 days to double check that the companies you removed are still gone. It wouldn't be surprising if companies started changing how they serve reminder ads to offset Google's new opt-out option.
- Special report: How to choose and manage great tech partners (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Google: Chrome 64 is out now, giving you tougher pop-up blocker, Spectre fixes (ZDNet)
- Google is using machine learning to make ads even more personal across platforms (TechRepublic)
- Sick of ads? Now you can pay Google not to see them, plus sites can charge ad-blocker users (ZDNet)
- Is advertising the price we'll pay for having AI everywhere? (TechRepublic)
Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.