Reddit said it was “simplifying” its ad privacy options by removing the ability to ignore targeted ads based on what communities you join, which posts you upvote or downvote, and how you spend your time on the platform.
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On Wednesday, Reddit posted to its r/reddit subreddit that over the next few weeks the site will make several changes to the platform’s privacy settings. Reddit’s head of privacy Jutta Williams wrote that the site will update the descriptions on some of the privacy toggles. Amid making some modest changes to how users can dictate the ways they show up in search results, Reddit said it’s removing the ability to switch off its ability to target users with ads based on their activity.
The company stressed that they don’t send Reddit activity information to third-party advertisers and that users can still deselect ad targeting based on information from outside advertisers. Still, it means users can no longer request that the site not use their activity data to hit them with ads based on their favorite subreddits or even their posting habits. Williams said “the vast majority of redditors” won’t see much change, inferring that most users don’t (or more likely don’t know) about the ability to deselect ad targeting.
“This change will not result in seeing more ads or sharing on-platform activity with advertisers,” Williams wrote. “It does enable our models to better predict which ad may be most relevant to you.”
The company said it was making these changes to “simplify” the privacy descriptions as well as “improve ad performance.” The latter mention seems to imply the company wants to enhance ad click-through rates—a metric for determining ad effectiveness based on the number of ad clicks divided by the number of times an ad is shown. In a recent blog post made for the benefit of advertisers, Reddit emphasized its own “targeting solution that harnesses Reddit’s rich corpus of text” for better ad targeting and improved click-through rates.
More than that, Reddit told advertisers it doubled the number of “interests” available for targeted ads, meaning the ads may be even more targeted based on user activity than before.
The thing is, some “select countries” will still maintain the ability to deselect ad targeting, but Reddit did not specify which countries that would be. Gizmodo reached out to Reddit for clarification, but we did not immediately hear back. It could be a reference to EU countries that come under the auspices of the Digital Services Act. The law requires platforms to be far more transparent about targeted ad practices, a prospect that’s caused quite a fair bit of consternation among big tech companies such as Meta who have long relied upon targeted ads for most of its revenue.
Reddit did claim it was adding the ability to opt out of specific ad categories, including some sensitive categories like alcohol, gambling, pregnancy and parenting, or weight loss. The site implied it won’t be able to stop every single one of those types of ads, and instead, Reddit will do its best to show “fewer” of these types of ads to users.
“‘Fewer’ because we’re utilizing a combination of manual tagging and machine learning to classify the ads, which won’t be 100% successful to start,” Williams wrote. “But, we expect our accuracy to improve over time.”
This kind of feature isn’t new. Google is among other platforms that have also introduced the ability to set preferences for ad targeting categories, though until recently it also broke some apps. Reddit is still getting over the massive moderator blackout protests that brought up large-scale dissatisfaction with the company’s monetization measures. Privacy changes won’t be the straw that breaks the Snoo’s back, so to speak, but it could add to the growing sense the platform thinks its users are a product to be easily expensed when it sees fit.