Google updated its user privacy controls on Wednesday, allowing users to delete their search activity — and control the ads the see — directly from the Google Search home page both on desktop and the mobile web, as well as from the Google Search iOS app.

As long as a user is signed into their account, they will be able to access their search data without having to go to their Google Account page and click through to the “Personal info & privacy” settings. On the mobile web experience, “Your data in Search” will be a persistent menu item on the home page as well as on results pages.

Why search marketers should care

Since news broke that Cambridge Analytica had used an app to harvest and exploit Facebook user data and then the later launch of the EU’s GDPR legislation, Google and other popular online platforms have been forced to pay more attention to how they store user data and be more transparent about how that data is used for ad targeting purposes.

While this latest update from Google is a step in the right direction in terms of user privacy, advertisers could be impacted in two ways. First, it’s now easier for users to delete and control their search data, making it more difficult to target ads to them. Second, users will be able to react more quickly to ads they don’t want to see. One could argue that such controls would help advertisers avoid serving ads to likely unresponsive audiences, therefore allowing them to focus on more receptive individuals.

“To control the ads you see when you search, we give you access to your Ad Settings. Additionally, you can access your Activity Controls to decide what information Google saves to your account and uses to make Search and other Google services faster, smarter and more useful,” writes Google’s director of product management, Eric Miraglia.

Giving users more direct access to control what information Google saves will potentially limit available ad targeting data. But, whether or not such efforts will impact advertisers will depend on how readily users avail themselves of these privacy tools. Certainly, having a call-to-action on its desktop home page, and a menu option within the mobile experience, will make this more top-of-mind for Google searchers.

More on Google’s latest user privacy control updates

  • The updates are rolling out on desktop, mobile web and the Google Search app for iOS on Wednesday, but won’t be available on the Android app until the coming weeks.
  • Google says it plans to expand these privacy control efforts to Google Maps in 2019, followed by releases in “many” other Google products.
  • In addition to being able to delete recent search activity, control ad settings and have access to Activity Controls, users will also see a “How activity data makes Search work” message aimed at educating them on how their settings and activity on Google impact search results.

This story first appeared on Search Engine Land. For more on search marketing and SEO, click here.


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