Google allows companies to target you based on your email address

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 30, 2015
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Companies, Google

Google announced the roll out of a new advertising tool recently on the company's official Adwords blog that allows companies to target users based on email addresses.

The system, called Customer Match, works in the following way. Companies upload email addresses they want to target to Google, for instance by uploading emails of part of the company's customer base to Google.

Companies get new capabilities then to target these users on Google properties provided that users are logged into their Google account at the time.

Google states that the matching happens in a "safe and privacy-safe way" but does not provide additional details as to what that means. It most likely means that company's cannot use Customer Match to target or track individual users but only the group of users.

The example given by Google has a travel brand target users who joined the company's reward program on Google Search when they search for flights and to show ads to them on Gmail or YouTube that may inspire them to plan their next trip.

control google ads

Customer Match lets companies target new customer through its Similar Audiences feature on YouTube and Gmail. Google will show these ads to non-customers who match certain characteristics and interests as existing customers (based on the list of email addresses uploaded to Google).

Google is not the only company that's letting advertisers target users by email address. Facebook and Twitter do the same, but they are limited to a single product while Google offers the new advertising program across different platforms.

Privacy advocates may have a couple of issues with this new advertising form. Probably the biggest one is the uploading of emails to Google. Customers who buy products or services from company's may not be too happy to learn that the company has uploaded their email address to a third party (Google) without their consent.

There is also the question whether their is a lower limit of email addresses that company's can upload to lists they create. If not, what is keeping them from creating individual lists for one or a handful of email addresses to target individual users this way.

What you can do about it

Google notes that customers can opt-out of personalized ads in the Google Ads Settings. All that needs to be done on the page is to switch the "ads based on your interests" preference to off.

Other options that you have at your disposal are to make sure you are signed out of your Google account whenever you using Google products. That works only for some products however, as you cannot use Gmail on the web at all if you are not signed in to your account.

Now You: Tell us what you think of Google's Customer Match advertising format.

Google allows companies to target you based on your email address
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Google allows companies to target you based on your email address
Google is rolling out the new advertising format Customer Match that enables companies to target users based on their email address.

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  1. The Dark Lady said on July 9, 2023 at 11:19 am

    Martin, I would appreciate that you do not censor this post, as it’s informative writing.

    Onur, there is a misleading statement “[…] GIFs are animated images …”. No, obviously you don’t seem to have take much notice of what you were told back in March regarding; Graphics Interchange Format (GIF).

    For example, (if you had read my replies within that thread, you might have learnt something useful). I even mentioned, “GIF intrinsically supports animated images (GIF89a)”.

    You linked to said article, [Related: …] within this article, but have somehow failed to take onboard what support you were given by several more knowledgeable people.

    If you used AI to help write this article, it has failed miserably.

  2. KeZa said on August 17, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    AI is stupid, and it will not get any better if we really know how this all works. Prove me wrong..

  3. Database failure said on August 18, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    Martin, [#comment-4569908] is only meant to be in: []. Whereas it appears duplicated in several recent random low-quality non relevant articles.

    Obviously it [#comment-4569908] was posted: 9 July 2023. Long before this thread even existed… your database is falling over. Those comments are supposed to have unique ID values. It shouldn’t be possible to duplicate the post ID, if the database had referential integrity.

  4. Howard Pearce said on August 25, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    Don’t tell me!

    Ghacks wants the state to step in for STATE-MANDATED associations to save jobs!!!

    Bring in the dictatorship!!!

    And screw Rreedom of Association – too radical for Ghacks maybe

  5. Howard Allan Pearce said on September 7, 2023 at 9:13 am

    GateKeeper ?

    That’s called “appointing” businesses to do the state’s dirty work!!!!!

    But the article says itself that those appointed were not happy – implying they had not choice!!!!!!

  6. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:50 am

    @The Dark Lady,
    @Database failure,
    @Howard Pearce,
    @Howard Allan Pearce,

    Note: I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and posted.

    The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
    Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
    As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann, Mike Turcotte, and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.
    How to display only articles by a specific author:
    Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
    RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

  7. Anonymous said on September 14, 2023 at 6:41 pm

    We all live in digital surveillance glass houses under scrutiny of evil people because of people like Musk. It’s only fair that he takes his turn.

  8. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    “Operating systems will be required to let the user choose the browser, virtual assistant and search engine of their choice. Microsoft cannot force users to use Bing or Edge. Apple will have to open up its iOS operating system to allow third-party app stores, aka allow sideloading of apps. Google, on the other hand, will need to provide users with the ability to uninstall preloaded apps (bloatware) from Android devices. Online services will need to allow users to unsubscribe from their platform easily. Gatekeepers need to provide interoperability with third-parties that offer similar services.”

    Wonderful ! Let’s hope they’ll comply with that law more than they are doing with the GDPR.

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