IPA welcomes Google's move to limit political ad targeting

Trade body continues to call for platform-neutral, machine-readable register of political ads.

Google: limiting election advertising targeting age, gender and postcode-level location
Google: limiting election advertising targeting age, gender and postcode-level location

The IPA has welcomed Google’s plans to limit political ad targeting and take action on obviously misleading statements.

Google announced last night that it would limit the ability of political advertisers to target individuals to only their age, gender and postcode-level location. As of next week in the UK, campaigns will no longer be able to match their own database of prospective voters against Google’s user base. 

The IPA also welcomed Google’s decision to no longer allow political campaigns to target advertising at people based on their political leanings. Google clarified to Campaign that it was doing this in the US but not in Europe, where the General Data Protection Regulation highly restricts ad targeting based on sensitive data such as political beliefs or sexual orientation

However, the trade body is continuing to call for a platform-neutral, machine-readable register of all political ads and ad data online. Last year, in the wake of the Facebook scandal over its relationship with disgraced data company Cambridge Analytica, the IPA began calling for micro-targeted political ads to be stopped.

Last year, a senior group of MPs recommended a public register as well as a ban on micro-target ads to audience "lookalikes". However, Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said the government had ignored these recommendations.

Paul Bainsfair, director-general of the IPA, said: "Google’s announcement marks a significant step in our call to address the lack of transparency, accountability and honesty of micro-targeted political ads online – something we have repeatedly questioned. As such, Google should be applauded. 

"However, despite this and other various positive steps being taken in this area, our concern that trust in advertising will continue to be undermined by this form of opaque advertising will remain until there is a universal online register of all political ads – to which all media platforms must comply."