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Google restricts ad targeting of minors and will delist photos of kids at their request

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As part of a new series of protections for kids under 18

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google will no longer allow ad targeting of children based on their age, gender, or interests as part of a new series of measures designed to protect kids under 18 using its services, the company announced today. Other changes include a new option for anyone under the age of 18 to ask for their images to be removed from Google’s image results, while YouTube uploads from children will also gradually default to the most private setting.

The changes are similar to what Facebook introduced last month when it said Instagram accounts for kids under 16 will be set to private by default, meaning users have to choose to make their profiles public. It also banned ads targeted at children based on their interests or their activity, although it still allowed them to be targeted based on age, gender, and location.

Google says it’s introducing its changes based on new regulations being introduced in some countries, and that it wants to offer “consistent product experiences and user controls” globally.

Requesting an image’s removal from Google’s image search won’t remove it from the web entirely, Google cautions, but it says this should give users more control over the spread of their images. Alongside its changes to ad targeting, Google also says it’s expanding safeguards to stop “age-sensitive ad categories” from being shown to teens.

The search giant is also making a number of other tweaks to its services for children. SafeSearch will now be on by default for users under the age of 18, after previously being on by default for users under 13. The feature, which blocks explicit results from appearing in search, is also coming to Google’s web browser on smart displays. Users under the age of 18 will also no longer be able to turn Location History on in their Google Account settings (Google says the setting is already off by default for all accounts). Assistant-enabled smart devices will also be able to block news, podcasts, and access to the web in the coming months.

On YouTube, autoplay will be off by default for kids under 18, and it’s turning on break reminders. YouTube Kids is getting a new autoplay option, but it’ll also be off by default. And there will be new resources available “for young people and their parents to help them better understand [Google’s] data practices.”

The new features are being introduced on different time scales. The option to request that images be removed from Google’s image search, as well as changes to default YouTube video privacy settings, will rollout in the coming weeks. The new restrictions on ad targeting, SafeSearch changes, and tools to block content on Google Assistant-enabled smart devices are launching in the coming months.