Skip to main content

How to control the ads you see online

Control online ad targeting with these crucial settings

Tired of ads tracking and targeting you? Beyond the obvious privacy concerns, ad targeting can keep you from seeing ads you might actually be interested in, or potentially reveal your browsing habits to other users on that computer.

As you can guess, many people would rather have more control over what ads they see online, and avoid specific types of ad targeting if possible. To help out, we’re going over how to gain more control over online ads on Google, Facebook, and websites as a whole.

Controlling ads on Google

Step 1: First, you need a Google Account, so set one up if you don’t already have one. When you’re ready, sign into your Google Account. You will immediately see several management sections, the first being Privacy & Personalization. In this block, select the option that says Manage your data & personalization.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 2: The new window that opens contains a lot of options for privacy, and you may want to look through them all in time. But to deal with ads specifically, head to the Ad personalization block and select Go to ad settings.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: Now you’ll see a large Ad personalization setting with a single switch saying Ad personalization is on. Simply switch this to off, and Google will stop tracking your ads for ad partners (or at least, it won’t track as much).

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 4: Below the large ad personalization switch, you will see a long list of brands, topics, and industries that are collecting information over Google about you. If you don’t want to turn ad personalization off altogether, or want to target a specific company/field, then you can click on any of the sections for further control.

Once selected, you’ll see why that particular thing is tracking you, and the ability to Turn Off tracking for that item. Select Turn Off for everything that you want to stop from collecting information about you — information that can be used to target ads toward you when you are browsing. Keep in mind, you can also leave tracking on for the ads that you don’t mind seeing if you don’t mind some forms of targeting.

Controlling ads on Facebook

Step 1: Facebook is the other large company that allows for specific ad controls while you are browsing.

If you use Facebook, you have an account: To begin, log in to your account and look at the top right corner of the window, where you should see an arrow point down in the menu section. Select this, and then select Settings from the dropdown menu.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 2: In the Settings menu, look to the left-side menu and choose the Ads section, which is lower down on the menu.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: You should now be in an ad preferences menu, which has a number of different sections about your Facebook activity and ads. You can peruse all of these, but for now let’s start at the section that says Ad Settings. Select this, and you will see several different types of ad information, such as “Ads based on data from partners.”

On the right side, you will see if this data is Allowed to be seen or not. Select these sections to find a longer explanation of how they work, and a dropdown menu that allows you to switch this ad data to Not Allowed. Switch your preferences for every section as you desire.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 4: You may also want to pay a visit to the section that says Hide ad topics. This allows you to hide specific ad topics for a certain period of time, or permanently, depending on your needs. For now, the topics available to block are, understandably, Alcohol, Parenting, and Pets.

Facebook may ad more topics to this section in the future (the company continues to change its approach to social content).

Controlling ads with an ad blocker

Chrome Web Store

When casually browsing the internet, you will still see lots of ads. They just won’t be as targeted to you after completing the above steps, but they’ll still be around. If you prefer to see fewer ads, especially from specific sources, your best option is to install an ad blocker.

They take only a couple minutes to set up, and they will block all kinds of ads from appearing in your browser, with some exceptions from brands that have broader whitelisting.

No matter which ad blocker you choose, you should also have the option to whitelist yourself. This means you can allow specific sites or content to make it past the ad blocker filter, so you can experience the content or support websites that you like while still blocking other things you don’t want. For example, here’s the guide on how to whitelist with AdBlock, a very popular ad blocking tool. Your own personal whitelisting can be done and undone as needed, allowing you to control many (but not all) of the ads you see online.

Editors' Recommendations

Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
How to create disposable email addresses

Fighting spam is an uphill battle. Each time you unsubscribe yourself from a junk email list, your inbox gets hit with double the amount the next day. What’s worse is not knowing how you got on that list in the first place.

While spam seems inevitable, you don’t have to put up with it anymore. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about creating a disposable email address, which can help reduce junk mail flow.
Use the Gmail customized emails trick
Although Google doesn't have its own disposable email service, Gmail offers the ability to create customized emails that you can then throw away when you don't need them anymore. If Google's own ad features aren't taking care of the problem, here's how to use this tool.

Read more
How to turn off Restricted Mode on YouTube
woman sitting at table watching laptop

YouTube's Restricted Mode feature is useful if you'd rather not view videos with mature content. It also prevents children from viewing such content when they use a web browser or Google's app. But what happens when you no longer need this restriction?

This guide will teach you how to turn off Restricted Mode on YouTube in any web browser and through Google's YouTube app for mobile. Simply follow these instructions again to toggle it back on if you want to enable Restricted Mode later.

Read more
How to change your Gmail password
pilot testing drivers licenses internet rolls two us states password

It's not the most fun part of your digital life, but strengthening the security of your online presence should be a top priority. Don't know where to start? Updating your passwords regularly is a great first step, including the one used with your Google Account. If this is your first time, don't fret: Making the change is quick and easy.

Related reads:

Read more