Google Ads to be Based on Your Email Address

John Lister's picture

Google is offering advertisers a new service based around customer email addresses. It won't mean users will receive more spam emails, but may be considered a misuse of email list advertising.

The service is called Customer Match. It involves advertisers uploading a list of email addresses to Google (for example, a company's mailing list); in turn, Google will then check that list against its own database of people who have signed up for a Google account. If there's a match between the two email addresses, it will then run advertisements for the company when the relevant person is visiting a Google-controlled site.

The idea is to show these ads at a relevant time. For example, a travel company's ads might appear when the customer is searching Google for holidays or looking at destination guides on YouTube.

While this will usually mean the ads are seen by people who already have some form of relationship with the advertiser, it's designed as a different and possibly more effective way to reach them. For example, the travel company might get its message across to people who normally delete or merely glance through email newsletters.

Google to Build Profile Of Users

The program doesn't stop there, however. Google will also give advertisers the option to have the ads appear in front of people who aren't on their list, but whose Google profiles closely match those who do.

For example, Google might process the travel company's list and find that its own records show many of the customers live in California, are using iPads, and visit cruise line sites regularly, which may be more detail than the travel company has itself. Google could then show ads to other users who have not dealt with the travel company before but fit the profile and may be particularly likely to find its advertising interesting or persuasive. (Source:

Google insists that no advertiser will get identifying details of any customers or be able to access the email addresses of people not on its own list.

Such technology isn't new in itself. Google's "Customer Match" is very similar to a service offered by Facebook. The difference is that Google's business set-up means the resulting ads will appear on a wider range of sites and services. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think this is a useful way to help advertisers while making ads more relevant for customers? Is this an acceptable way for advertisers to use the email addresses they collect, or should they get express permission from customers first? Should Google insist advertisers provide proof they have gathered email addresses legitimately?

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Dennis Faas's picture

These revelations are surprising but also not very shocking in the day and age of Facebook and Facebook-related technology. Almost everything you do online gets tracked, right down to traveling with your cell phone.