Google says it’s investigating ways to preserve users’ privacy without impacting their display ads experiences, in part through AI and machine learning. In a blog post this morning, the Mountain View company announced it’ll soon introduce an ad frequency feature in Display & Video 360 — its end-to-end programmatic ad campaign management platform — that’ll tap AI to help advertisers “[respect] user privacy” when third-party cookies aren’t present.
Google explains that the tool, which it plans to bring to display offerings in Google Ads in the near future, will leverage traffic patterns where a third-party cookie is available and analyze them at an aggregated level across Google Ad Manager publishers to generate predictive models. This will enable it to estimate how likely it is that users visit different publishers serving the same ads through Google Ad Manager, and to optimize how often those ads should be shown to users who lack third-party cookies.
Google is already using machine learning in Google Ads, albeit mostly to generate ad suggestions, better match users’ searches, and adjust video bids. But Google Ads Privacy product manager Rahul Srinivasan asserts this new AI-driven frequency management approach is more “privacy safe” than workarounds like fingerprinting, which rely on user-level signals like IP address, device type, and installed fonts to generate unique identifiers. If all goes according to plan, it should result in fewer instances of users repeatedly encountering the same ads as a result of blocked or restricted cookies, he says.
“Since we aggregate all user data before applying our machine learning models, no user-level information is shared across websites. Instead, this feature relies on a publisher’s first-party data to inform the ad experience for its own site visitor,” said Srinivasan. “This is a step in the right direction as we work across Google to raise the bar for how our products deliver better user experiences while also respecting user privacy.”
Today’s announcement, which coincided with Google’s discussions this week with advertising and publishing partners in Europe at a series of events in London, comes after the company revealed it would introduce protections in Chrome to protect users from cross-site cookies and fingerprinting. Google also recently announced it would launch an open source ads transparency browser extension. And in August, it launched Privacy Sandbox, an initiative to develop a set of open standards to enhance privacy on the web in a fashion that’s “consistent with users’ expectations of privacy.”