Reddit enforces user activity tracking on site to push advertising revenue

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 28, 2023

Reddit announced privacy related changes today that make things worse for many privacy conscious users. The announcement by Reddit's head of privacy lists a number of changes regarding privacy, advertisement on Reddit and location settings.

Reddit states: "We’re updating preference descriptions for clarity, adding the ability to limit ads from specific categories, and consolidating ad preferences. The aim is to simplify our privacy descriptions, improve ad performance, and offer new controls for the types of ads you prefer not to see".

While that sounds like good measures based on the statement, it is not. Reading on, Reddit informs users in one section that it is "removing the ability to opt-out of ad personalization" based on a user's Reddit history.

Advertisers may use the Reddit activity of a user for advertising. Reddit notes that this will roll out to all users, "expect in select countries". The company does not list the exceptions, but it could refer to EU countries, as the ruling may be in violation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Reddit users who don't reside in one of the exception countries can't opt-out anymore of ad personalization. In other words, Reddit will use the activity, which includes subscriptions and votes on threads, to push advertising to the user's system.

Reddit users who opted-out explicitly in the past will be opted-in automatically. Users won't see more ads and Reddit claims that the new system won't be "sharing on-platform activity with advertisers".

Reddit users may load the Safety & Privacy settings page on the site to control the available settings.

There, they may opt-out of the personalization of advertisement at the moment. This personalization options will not be available to most users on the platform once the change lands. Users from exception countries will retain options to opt-out of ad personalization on Reddit.

Reddit has made a few changes in the recent past that give it more control over the platform and user data. The company practically forced third-party Reddit clients into discontinuation when it hiked API prices significantly in a short period of time. This was done to push the official Reddit application and advertising revenue, as the official app does not support ad blocking.

The new move to disallow opting out of ad personalization is another attempt at increasing the site's profitability. Reddit is still planning to go public, but it is unclear if the IPO is going to happen in 2023.

Privacy is going to take a turn in the wrong direction for Reddit users who have opted-out of ad personalization in the past and do not live in a country exempt from the new ruling. Reddit users may resort to using content blockers to block advertisement on the platform. On mobile, browsers like Firefox do support extensions and may be used for that purpose, provided that Reddit is not enforcing usage of its application on mobile devices.

Now You: do you use Reddit? Are you affected by the change?

Article Name
Reddit enforces user activity tracking on site to push advertising revenue
Reddit announced plans to remove the ability to opt-out of ad personalizations on the platform for most users.
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