How to stop targeted ads on Facebook and Google

Robin Layton

Feb 8, 2024 — 7 min read

Facebook and Google send you targeted ads based on your online browsing history. Here are tips to stop those personalized ads.

After purchasing or researching something online, it can be very annoying – and feel like a breach of your privacy – to be inundated with ads on the same subject. Many browsers and apps like Facebook and Google have ad preferences that you can alter to stop this from happening.

Why you might want to block or report ads on Facebook and Google 

Blocking ads may seem like a lot of work, but it can pay off in the long run if you have more browsing privacy. Facebook and Google track your movements and send you targeted ads based on what you’re searching for. 

Security is also an issue since ads can harbor malware, allowing a hacker into your device. Blocking ads can also speed up your browsing – no annoying extra ads to load and click out of. 

If you don’t like to see certain ads due to offensive or inappropriate content, you can report ads on the platform you are seeing them on and those ads will cease to be in your feed.

How to stop targeted ads

Personalized online ads can be annoying and invasive but can also slow down your internet performance, which affects your page load experience and overall internet speed. There are a few ad blockers, hacks and edits to your settings that can help speed up your internet and make personalized ads a thing of the past on social media and your web browser:

  • Browse in incognito mode
  • Turn off your cookies
  • Use a VPN with an ad blocker

Take a look at how to stop Facebook and Google ads in particular and some steps you can take on popular platforms like Google. 

How to stop Facebook ads

You can’t opt out of ads completely, but you do have a say in which ads you see and what data is used to select these ads. You can click on any ad directly and choose to hide it specifically, hide inappropriate ads from the advertisers or check out why you’re seeing it in the first place. 

From there, you can get a better idea of how to stop Facebook ads by seeing what data is being used and then changing the data that’s influencing your ads.

How to stop ads based on relationship status, employer or job title

  1. Open your Facebook account and navigate to the “Settings & Privacy” dropdown under your name.
  2. Click on “Ads” in the left menu.
  3. Click Ad Topics, and then under Ad topics that advertisers can use to reach you, you’ll see topics representing interest categories advertisers use.
  4. To see less of an ad topic, click the topic you want to see less of and then select See Less.

On the Ad Topics page, you’ll now see this topic under Topics you see less of. You can change your preference anytime by selecting a topic and choosing No preference.

How to stop ads based on data from advertisers and offline interactions (like purchases, your use of partner websites or apps)

  1. Navigate to the ‘Ad Preferences‘ menu and choose Ad Settings.
  2. Click on Data about your activity from partners
  3. Select ‘No‘ to deactivate these ad influencers.

These instructions aren’t universal to every social media platform, but making these changes on a player like Facebook could actually take care of a good bit of your ad targeting problems.

Stopping ads on other social media programs

Most popular social media apps will have a setting to control what ads you see. For instance, Instagram offers opting out of ads completely and has brand control, allowing you to see or not see ads from certain companies. 

How to stop Google ads

Because Google is behind some of the largest web-based services in the industry (YouTube, Waze and Google Chrome, to name a few), the changes you make to your Google account ad settings will make a major impact on the ads you see overall. 

How to edit what data Google uses to create your ads

  1. Open your Google account profile and select ‘Data & personalization‘ in the main menu. 
  2. Scroll down to the ‘Web & App Activity‘ and disable ads influenced by your activity altogether or pick and choose which activities are included using the checklist. 

You’ll also have the option to stop data collection from your location history as well (especially useful for Google Maps users). 

To stop your data from influencing your ads at all, you can scroll down a bit further to the ‘Ad personalization’ settings and deactivate this setting completely. 

As consumers, we’ll never be able to escape online ads, but if you know how they work and how you can influence them, you can regain some of your privacy. 

How to report Facebook ads

To report an ad when you see it:

  • In your feed, click next to the ad you want to report.
  • Click Report ad and then follow the on-screen instructions.

To report an ad later:

  • Go to the Meta Ad Library.
  • In the Search ads box, enter keywords related to the ad or the advertiser name. Then tap the enter key.
  • Scroll to find the ad you want to report and click next.
  • Choose Report ad and then follow the on-screen instructions.

How to choose an ad blocker

Which ad blocker you pick depends on what you want it to do best: block everything, block targeted ads or block offensive content. Doing some research can help you find the right one for you. 

PCMag picked uBlock Origin as the best blocker for everything and tested several blockers on analytics, web tracking, design and more.

Update on ending cookies

No, no one is getting rid of your favorite delicious cookies; we’re talking about those pesky online files that track what you do on the internet. A web server generates and sends these small files, or cookies, to a web browser. 

“Web browsers store the cookies they receive for a predetermined period, or the length of a user’s session on a website. They attach the relevant cookies to any future requests the user makes of the web server,” as explained by Cloudflare.

Without these cookies, it’s hard for an advertiser to find its customers. Some tech giants are working to eliminate or at least reduce third-party cookies. These cookies are placed on your device from a domain other than the one you are visiting.

Google is taking its user privacy more seriously, and “starting in early 2024, Google plans to migrate 1% of Chrome users to Privacy Sandbox and disable third-party cookies for them. Google’s plan to completely deprecate third-party cookies in the second half of 2024 remains on track,” reports TechCrunch.

Safari and Firefox already block third-party cookies by default.

TechTarget explains the difference between first- and third-party cookies.

How targeted advertisements work

Many consumers swear their web browsers and social media accounts listen to their conversations and often ask how to turn off ads. That belief is understandable, given the accuracy of some ads users see nowadays. However, there’s a system to how advertisers get their ads in front of the right eyes. They work closely with social media platforms (like Facebook) or web browsers (like Google) to do it. That can sometimes translate into a feeling that you are getting too many ads online.

So, let’s say you’ve been shopping the TJ Maxx home section for something to add to your living space and discussing your options with a few friends. Not even a week later, those options show up in display ads alongside your newsfeed. Here are a few ways this can happen:

  • You were logged into your social account while browsing the products.
  • You fit the target demographic the company asked their ads to be shown to.
  • You’ve purchased from the company before, and they’re targeting you specifically.
  • You’re active on one of Google’s many web-based services (Google Maps, Google Chrome, Gmail, Waze), so they have a detailed profile on your likes and dislikes.

If you have social media apps on your phone, the odds are you’re logged in to those accounts, and they’re monitoring your browsing activity on other sites. Facebook, in particular, is especially skilled at this thanks to Facebook Pixel, a technology that sends messages back to Facebook from sites you’ve visited. 

You may also see ads because you fit the company’s target audience or have purchased from the retailer before. But if you see the exact products in your cart displayed in ads elsewhere, that information was passed along to the social media app via Pixel. 

Google can put together a pretty extensive list of who you are, where you go and what you’re into based on your activity on any of their various services. So if you frequent any of Google’s popular platforms and you’ve never altered the settings, those platforms are constantly learning from you to serve up ads specifically for you. 

Removing ads FAQs

How do ads work on Facebook?

Facebook uses Facebook Pixel which alerts Facebook about which sites you’ve visited.

Google uses your browsing history, search queries and purchases to provide targeted ads to you. A temporary cookie is placed on your device to do this.

If your Facebook feed is suddenly packed with ads, that called ad retargeting. Facebook says it’s “to show you more relevant ads, we receive and use information that advertisers and other partners provide to us about your activity on their websites and apps, as well as some of your offline interactions, such as purchases.”


Robin Layton

Written by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

Robin Layton is an editor for the broadband marketplace Allconnect. She built her internet industry expertise writing and editing for four years on the site, as well as on Allconnect’s sister site … Read more