Personalized Google Ads – What You Are Not Allowed To Do

Digital advertising is very powerful. You can reach potential customers at any time of the day if they are looking for goods or services your business can provide. It also makes Google an absolute fortune.

Personalized digital advertising is even more powerful. It increases ad relevance for users and increases return on investment for advertisers. It works by using user data to target users with highly relevant advertising, which provides a better experience for the user and increased revenues for advertisers. If you want to know more about what personalization is, check out our article.

But what many people don’t know is that personalization actually opens up more ethical issues than traditional Google Ads/PPC marketing. Because of the nature of personalized ads, and how they use the user’s own data for targeting, marketers have to be sensitive and handle that data appropriately.

Google has policies in place around personalized ads. So in this article we look at what you are not allowed to do with personalized ads on Google.

Image showing "big data"
Photo by ev on Unsplash

Data collection and use of user data

Google’s data collection and use of data policies are different, but related to, government data protection policies such as GDPR in the E.U. and PDPA here in Thailand. And there are policies related specifically to personalization that operate in addition to standard Google Ad policies for data use.

Some of these additional policies relate specifically to the use of remarketing lists. This basically means that another advertiser cannot use your remarketing list without your specific consent.

But there are additional policies that Google has that govern your use of user data within personalized ads.

Here is what is on the banned list.

Run ads that collect, or contain, personally identifiable information (or PII)

You are not allowed to run ads that collect or contain PII. Unless you are using an ad format from Google that’s designed for this purpose. This gives Google a bit of flexibility if they want to provide an ad format that gives this functionality to advertisers in the future. But, basically, you cannot run ads that collect email addresses, phone numbers or physical addresses within the ad itself.

Imply knowledge of sensitive information within the ad

You cannot imply knowledge of PII or sensitive information about the user within your ads.

Use or associate PII with remarketing lists, cookies, data feeds, or other anonymous identifiers

This stops advertisers from associating PII with more anonymous data sources that they may hold.

Share PII with Google through remarketing tags or any product data feeds that might be associated with ads

This is pretty self explanatory. This policy is designed to preserve the user’s privacy.

Send Google precise location information without first obtaining users’ consent

There may be occasions where sharing location data with Google provides a better user experience, but you MUST obtain consent from the user first.

Use a remarketing list that is overly specific or too small

You can learn specifics about remarketing list size requirements here but this protects the user from cases where an advertiser may build a very small remarketing list around, for example, a specific location or segment.

Use of remarketing lists from other services

Use of other remarketing list services is prohibited in Google Ads. Unless the service you are using is compliant with all of Google’s policy requirements.

Image showing a Google search bar.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

Policy Principles

It’s vitally important to be aware of areas of sensitivity when you are embarking on a personalized Google Ads campaign. Luckily Google does have specific guidelines in place to protect users from more unscrupulous online advertisers. 

Personalization is incredibly powerful and if it is used in an unethical manner it can cause serious damage. Google has identified four specific categories as “sensitive” which could help protect users from being targeted in an unethical manner.

Personal Hardship 

Google has specifically stated that they do not want ads that exploit users’ difficulties and struggles. 

Personal hardships policy covers the following areas:


Specifically long term physical and mental health conditions, products, services, or procedures to treat or manage long term health conditions, any health issues associated with intimate body parts or functions, invasive medical procedures, including cosmetic surgery and disabilities.

Negative financial status

This covers personalized ads that specifically target users in difficult financial situations. For example, it stops predatory lenders from sending highly personalized marketing to financially vulnerable people.


This covers personalized ads that target users facing difficulties with family, friends, or other relationships.

Commission of a crime

This applies more to the U.S. where bail bond type companies operate. 

Abuse and trauma

This stops unscrupulous businesses targeting vulnerable people. People facing personal hardship in this area will gain more value from organic search access to services that help them, not advertising.

Imposing negativity

This specifically forbids “shady” personalized advertising that uses negative perspective or bias to promote content, products or services. Again, unethical companies could use “dark” personalization techniques to manipulate people. This policy is broad enough to cover a number of areas.

Identity and Belief

Questions of identity and belief are incredibly complex. Unfortunately there are bad people out there who would use personalized advertising that manipulates people’s identity and beliefs to sell products and services. 

Google forbids advertisers from using categories around identity and belief. But there are some caveats to that. 

Google forbids personalized advertising that implies knowledge of or uses data on sexual orientation, political affiliation, trade union membership, race and ethnicity, religious belief, marginalized groups and transgender identification.

There are some caveats though, strangely. Personalized ads that send users to political content are forbidden. But not on ads in Gmail.

Sexual Interests

Because of sensitivities around this subject Google does not allow personalized advertising that targets users based on their personal sexual interests, experiences, activities, or preferences.

Birth control is also a prohibited area for personalized Google ads. Sexual content is also prohibited.

Access To Opportunities

This area broadly covers social biases and prohibits personalized advertising that takes advantage of these social biases. It stops unscrupulous people using personalized ads to target specific audiences that may be affected by these social biases.

Access to opportunities policy covers housing, employment and credit services in the U.S. and Canada.

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Talk to MAQE

We are experts in personalized commerce. So we can help you to create unique personalized experiences that are fully compliant with government regulations. And with advertiser policies like Google’s. Talk to us via [email protected] to find out more.