Shades of Big Brother : Google Adchoices Reveal Dark Secret

by humagaia

Adwords, Adsense, but Adchoices? What are these? Are they additional adverts? No, it's what Google knows about you: where they reveal their dark secret. Shades of Big Brother?

We are all aware of Adwords, aren't we?

We are all aware of Adsense, aren't we?

We are all aware of Adchoices, aren't we?


What the heck are Adchoices?

Where can I sign up?

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How much can I earn from them? 
Where can I find out?

Where the adchoices button lies
Tell me more!
Tell me more!
Screen 1

When you press the Adchoices arrow/triangle you may be presented with one of two screens.

Now I don't know if this is to do with me being in the UK but............

  • Screen 1 is as below

    This tells me about:

    A cookie consent tool. 
    What happens when I opt out
    My online choices 
Screen 2
  • Screen 2 is as below
    This tells me 'What Adchoices is';
    how to report a policy violation for ads
    It also relates what Adchoices are; where I can learn more; and the choices I have.
    From here you can go to the Google 'Privacy Policy'; ads 'Preference Manager'; and your 'account settings', if you want to change how Google +1 works for you. 
Adchoices - Reporting a policy violation
Adchoices - Reporting a policy violation
Adchoices Evidon - Cookie Consent Tool
Adchoices Evidon - Cookie Consent Tool

Cookie Consent Tool

A cookie consent tool?
What the heck is a cookie consent tool?

What is a cookie, in the first place?

A cookie is that clever device that website owners use to determine certain information about what you do on the internet, that may be of interest to them when you visit their site. These little critters are held on your computer and have little snippets of information embedded in them, all about you, and what you do internet-wise (or at least, most of the time, in connection with the website for which the cookie is doing its job).

There are hundreds of cookies on your computer - mind you don't get crumbs in your keyboard! Each one functions as a store detective, peering round the corner, or checking the surveillance pictures to see what you are doing. And they are noting down the relevant information to bring a prosecution - I jest (unless the Feds turn up and 'request' the information).

Now, Google has recently been telling all and sundry that it is changing it's privacy policy (as of Jan/Feb 2012). You know about this, right? You are opted in by default! However the changes have led to them giving you various options. And one of those options is to switch off ad cookies of companies that may be storing or accessing your information from their Adwords ads. For this task they use Evidon. According to the choices you made (you did not know you had made them? Oh dear) about the type, and which, ads could be presented to you (or for you, if you are an Adsense affiliate), you will see a list (of one most times) of the Ad companies that generate ads for the Adwords campaigns.

If you don't want the particular Ad company knowing the preferences Google thoughtfully determines that you would be most interested in (so they can put personalized ads in front of you, rather than ads related to the article), then opt-out. Just follow the instructions!

About Adchoices

When I first saw the Adchoices arrow on Google Adwords ads I thought "Ooh, What's that?". Now, I am an inveterate button pusher, but, as an Adsense affiliate, I also know that I should not press any ad on any of my internet properties: so I went elsewhere and pressed the arrow/triangle, as shown in the first picture, above. And I didn't get more ads. I got this (or to be more precise, I got different screens by pressing on different Adchoice arrows on different ads [see left])!

AdChoices are shown where Google AdSense ads appear. Ads are shown according to

  • the page content
  • the types of websites you have visited.

The latter is not based on personal information. It is based on information stored within the DoubleClick cookie (see left if you do not know what a cookie is). Why? In order to show ads relevant to you.

Choices regarding Google ads

Google account information, including anything you have shared on +1, is used to personalize ads presented to you, across the web. This consolidated data is used by Google to give a personal profile to each internet user it encounters.

Big Brother, or what?

You did not know this?

Oops, I've let the cat out of the bag. No secret any more.

But the magnanimous Big G allows you to amend these details and to opt out of the personalization of ads presented to you.

This can be done through the Google 'Ads Preferences Manager'.

But just before you do so, just check the information about the ad company (see the screenshot below). Blah, blah - if you understand what the jargon means then you probably did not need to start to read this article. What does it tell you? Well, put it this way, I did need to start to read this article. I cannot enlighten you in any way, as to what it means. Suffice to say, if it sounds ominous for your situation - opt out!

Your interests and demographics

Google summary

Review your Google interests summary and demographics, they make interesting reading, notwithstanding that they are a little sparse. Mine are shown below. Thanks Google, I am only 35-44 according to your analysis - I only wish this were true. You are almost 15 years out.

You can find this information without going through all the rigmarole of Adchoice information, using this URL:

Adchoices Ad company Info
My account demographics
My account demographics

But just before you go and do that (or not, as the case may be), just press the "more details about the Ad company" at the bottom.

Ad company - more details
Opt out

You can adjust your interest summary details or change your demographics and/or opt out of ads personalization by pressing the 'remove or edit' button, when you will be taken to the page below:

Adchoices opt out

Now that's more like it (see the screenshot above). I understand most of what is written there (except "Data Collected Anonymous, Pseudonymous"), and I can now make an informed decision as to whether to opt out or not.

And maybe you can, too.

What happens when I opt out?

By pressing the "What happens when I opt out?" link (as indicated with a big 2 in the first diagram), you are presented with some information about:

    •                         "What happens to a person’s data?"
      It's all about profiling:
      cookies collect data: companies can collect data and sell that data; the data can be consolidated with other data to produce a detailed profile about you. Companies do this all the time - If you hold a store loyalty card and pass it over the counter to receive loyalty points, then the data attached to the purchase you just made, is stored for future use by that company.
      cookies are useful in some ways: making the web easier to navigate; enabling personalized search results and ad viewing.
      Opting out does not mean you will not get ads: it means you will not see personalized ads from that Ad company.
    •                               "How does someone opt out?"
      Either go to each site and opt-out (by going to their 'Privacy Policy' section)
      Use the Evidon system to send bulk opt-out requests (by using 'more information & opt-out page').
    •                              "What happens when I opt out?"
      Another cookie is set up! By each individual Ad company. You have to check each Ad company's privacy policy to see what exactly this means.
      Companies may still collect data about you, other than for ad purposes. You are only ensured of opting out of ad data collection. You will still see ads - just not those using your data to determine that they will be shown to you. 
Adchoices - Your online choices.


Your Online Choices

In the UK we are directed to a website ( [see above]) giving us information about behavioural advertising, how it works, and what to do. This is presented to us because a cookie has information within it that tells the Evidon website that we come from the UK.

In the US I think the equivalent site is


So is this a dark secret that has been revealed?
Is this the ugly head of Big Brother?

I think not!

We all know that Google utilises information it has about us to present personalized internet experiences, search results and ads. With the advent of the integration of +1, and the additional information that this will reveal to Google, this initiative to give us more control over the information we wish to be acted upon, and how it is actioned, is a step in the right direction.
It is a necessary step for Google, considering how certain countries are demanding changes to the way, and what, personal information is collected and how it is used.
This may alleviate some of the possible litigation that would otherwise fall upon the corporate G.

Shades of Big Brother revealing a dark secret - no.

Retrenchment  to alleviate litigation - possibly.

Making sure they are covering their ar..s - most likely.

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Updated: 02/06/2021, humagaia
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humagaia on 10/17/2012

Well that at least is something Jo. Apparently I am under 40 - wish I was! Just shows how we can be perceived from our activity online.
You say it does not describe you in any way - but does it describe how you want to be perceived (even subconsciously) online? Your activity online is only some part of your overall personality - perhaps if you stick on your offline activities the adjudication would bear a closer approximation to your reality.

JoHarrington on 10/17/2012

I'm so proud. I checked out the URL and read it. It does not describe me in any way, shape or form. The only thing that Google had right was my gender!

humagaia on 02/11/2012

@Holistic_Health As writers we should all take note of what you say. Personalization presents a limited view that we should veer away from. I, for instance, hated that Google repatriated me to Google UK whenever I typed in Once I had discovered how to get around that I felt it my mission to let others know how it could be achieved.
I speak and write in several languages (I even write and understand American). It is a disservice that G perpetrates when they assume that because my native tongue may be English, that I should always require results in English.
With regard to personalizing adverts, I have less of a problem, except when I am in the market for something that may be available through an ad in another language.
And you are right that G is a drug - we take it intravenously, fed through tubes. It inveigles our mind. We pay the price, but at least they are giving us a chance to influence the decisions they make on our behalf. But I do wish they would not second guess what I might want. I am capable of making that decision myself.
You may be interested in my take on this - you can find it in 'SERPs: Whats wrong with Google serps' - if you get there, I would appreciate your input.
Thanks for commenting - and by the way I like what you write about.

Holistic_Health on 02/11/2012

Google is like a drug. Try quitting and there's a price to pay. I search the web for other people's opinions, not my own so I can do without the personalized experience.

humagaia on 02/10/2012

That sentiment is reciprocated - we seem to have a similar thirst for the knowing that which is not at first blindingly obvious, generally known, or hidden somewhat. The more we know the better we are able to function successfully. Whether that be in the wide world or in the confines of the internet, it matters not.
Little things like arrows and buttons etc are the things that peek my curiosity. They say curiosity killed the cat - perhaps one day my curiosity will get me into all sorts of trouble - but until then I shall continue to press the buttons. And I hope you will too.
Thanks for taking the time to comment - it is appreciated.

katiem2 on 02/10/2012

Thanks, I'm so glad you're as curious as you are now I know what adchoices are. I like knowing things and really appreciate you doing all the leg work and then delivering it to those of us who want to be in the know.

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