Frequently asked questions

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Questions about your privacy and ads

Does Google listen to my phone calls or read my emails?

No. We respect that your conversations are personal and private. What you say over the phone has nothing to do with the ads that you see from Google. Your email is personal and private. You don’t see ads based on what you write in your emails or what you store in services like Google Drive.

Does Google sell or share my personal information?

Your personal information isn’t sold or shared with advertisers, publishers (such as websites and apps) or other companies. It’s always your choice to share information with Google.

Advertisers only see data about their ads in aggregate to understand how their ads perform. The aggregated data that advertisers can see does not reveal any personal information about you.

So, how does Google make money?

Google's main source of revenue is advertising – mostly from ads on our own sites and apps.

Advertisers can tell Google the types of audiences that they want to reach, and Google then tries to show the advertiser’s ads to people in those groups. Each of Google’s products and services show ads in different ways to help advertisers try to reach new and existing customers.

For example:

If an advertiser wants their ads to appear in Google Search, they can tell Google that they want to show ads to specific audiences and based on specific keywords relevant to the terms that people use when they search.

Let’s say that you're looking for info about guitar lessons, and you use Google Search. If an advertiser has told Google that they want to show ads based on the keyword 'guitars', you might see an ad from that advertiser. If you click on one of those ads, the advertiser pays Google. If you see the ad and don't click it, the advertiser is charged nothing and Google makes no money.

Google also makes money by helping other sites make money with advertising. These other sites and apps use our ad technology to display ads. When Google shows ads on someone else's site or app, the majority of the money that advertisers pay goes to that partner site and we keep a portion of it.

Learn more about how Google makes money

How does Google make guesses about me?

You can see which categories you’re currently getting ads for in My Ad Centre’s Manage Privacy  tab. When a business places an ad, it often chooses which categories of people it wants to show their ads to. For example, a roofing service may choose to show its ads to homeowners rather than renters.

Your activity on Google sites and apps is used to infer which categories are most relevant to you – and then to show you ads meant for people in that category. Sometimes our estimates are wrong, and you can update or turn off any category.

For example:
Let’s say that you use Google Search to look for nappies for a toddler. Based on this, Google might estimate that you’re interested in other products meant for people in the category 'Parents of toddlers'.
What if my status is different than the options in a category?
We only show categories that are used for personalised ads, so you might not see many options for certain categories. Sometimes, you may want to get ads for a different category than what we've estimated. 

Turn on or off a category for ads

When you turn off a category, your info for that category will be deleted and that category won't be used to show you ads.

To turn on or off a category for ads:

  1. Go to My Ad Centre.
  2. Select Manage Privacy .
  3. Under 'Categories used to show you ads', select the category you’d like to turn on or off.
  4. Turn on or off that category.

If you turn off personalised ads, all of your category info will be deleted and won’t be used to personalise ads.

Go to My Ad Centre

Update a category

When you update a category, your changes will be saved within My Ads, and you may start to see ads meant for people in that category in a few days.

To update a category:

  1. Go to My Ad Centre.
  2. Select Manage Privacy .
  3. Under Categories used to show you ads, select the category that you’d like to control or update.
  4. Select the option that fits your interests

If you turn off personalised ads, all of your category info will be deleted and won't be used to personalise ads.

Go to My Ad Centre

Questions about your activity on Google and ads

How does Google use my saved activity?

Your saved activity is used on Google for two types of things: personalised product experiences and personalised ads. You can decide if your activity is used for either and if it's saved to your Google Account.

Personalised product experiences use your activity to give you better recommendations in Maps, Search and other Google services.

For example:
If you search for chocolate cake, and then search again for 'how to make', Google might be more likely to predict that you’re searching for 'how to make chocolate cake'.

Learn more about your Web & App Activity.

Personalised ads use your activity to help show you more relevant and interesting ads on Google services like Search and YouTube.

For example:
If you’ve recently searched for info about how to make a chocolate cake, you might see an ad on YouTube about cake baking supplies.

Learn more about how to control the info that Google uses to show you personalised ads.

What's the difference between saving my activity and using it for ads?

Saving your activity on Google to your Google Account means that it can be used to help create better personalised recommendations for you, like better YouTube video recommendations. You can control whether your activity is saved to your Google Account in My Activity.

That activity can also be used to help show you more relevant and interesting ads on Google services. You can control whether your activity is used for ads in My Ad Centre.

Learn more about how to find and control your Web & App Activity.

Learn more about how to control the info that Google uses to show you personalised ads.

How do I find and control my Web and App Activity?

You can find and control your Web & App Activity by visiting My Activity.

Learn more about how to find and control your Web & App Activity.

How do I find and control my YouTube History?

You can find and control your YouTube search history by visiting My Activity.

Learn more about your YouTube History.

How do I find and control my Location History?

You can find and control your Location History by visiting My Activity.

Learn more about how to manage your Location History.

How does Google use info about where I've been to personalise ads?

When you use Google service, Google estimates the general area that you’re searching from and saves that info with your Web and App activity. These areas where you’ve used Google help show you more relevant ads. You can turn on or off using these areas for personalised ads at any time.

For example:

  • If 'Areas where you’ve used Google' is on and you search for coffee, you might see an ad for a local coffee shop.
  • If 'Areas where you’ve used Google' is off and you search for coffee, you might see an ad for a coffee shop in a different town.

To control whether the areas where you’ve used Google may be used for ads:

  1. Go to My Ad Centre.
  2. Select Manage Privacy 
  3. Under 'Activity used to personalise ads', select Areas where you’ve used Google.
  4. Turn on or off Use areas to personalise ads.
  5. Confirm your selection.

Go to My Ad Centre

This setting affects the ads that you see on all Google sites and apps.

When you turn off areas where you’ve used Google for ads, it won’t be used to help personalise the ads you see. The areas where you’ve used Google may still be saved to your Google Account and you may still get personalised recommendations on Google services.

Questions about customising the ads that you see

Why am I still seeing an ad, even though I blocked or reported it?

Ad blocking is imperfect and sometimes we miss blocking an ad for you. You might be seeing an ad even though you've blocked or reported it because:

  • Google doesn't show every ad on the web. If you’re on a non-Google site or app, a different ad technology company might be showing you that ad.
  • Advertisers use many different formats and styles of ads for the same products, and you might be seeing an ad similar to the one that you blocked.
Reporting an ad doesn’t block it. Learn more about how to block an ad.

Learn more about how to report an ad

Why am I still seeing ads related to a category I've turned off?

When you turn off a category, your info for that category will be deleted and that category won't be used to show you personalised ads on Google services, like Search and YouTube.

If you’re on a non-Google site or app, a different ad technology company might be showing you that ad.

If you're on a Google site or app, you might see an ad that seems related to a category that you’ve turned off because of other preferences that you’ve set in My Ad Centre or because the ad is contextual. Contextual ads are based on factors like the time of day, the topic of the website that you're visiting, your approximate current location or your current search.

Why can't I block sensitive topics entirely?

We’ll do our best not to show you ads about the topics that you limit. In some cases, you might still see an ad containing images related to the topic that you’ve limited. For example, you might see an airline ad featuring someone holding a glass of champagne. This isn’t an alcohol ad, even though the ad shows alcohol.

In other cases, you might still see an ad about a topic that you’ve limited if you search for info about one of those topics or you watch a video related to those topics.

Why can’t I limit more sensitive topics?
At the moment, you can limit ads about: alcohol, dating, gambling, parenting and pregnancy, as well as weight loss. These were selected based on extensive user research into what topics people find most sensitive. As we continue to conduct research, we may include additional topics in the future.
Do the choices I make in My Ad Centre affect the ads that I see on other sites?

The choices that you make in My Ad Centre – like the topics of ads that you choose to see more or less of, and what info is used to show you ads – affect the ads that you see on Google services like Search and YouTube. When you turn on or off personalised ads in My Ad Centre, that choice affects whether or not ads are personalised on Google services as well as sites that partner with Google to show ads.

Not every website partners with Google to show ads. Turning on or off personalised ads in My Ad Centre does not affect the kinds of ads from other ad technology companies or the ads that you see on sites that have their own ads platforms.

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