Reddit has unveiled a series of adjustments to its user preference settings, with the most notable alteration being the removal of the option for users to opt out of ad personalization based on their activity within the platform. This means that Reddit users will not experience an increase in the number of ads, but the advertisements displayed will be more accurately targeted to align with their interests and on-site behaviors. Reddit highlighted the minimal personal information it requires from its users, asserting that advertisers predominantly utilize on-platform activities such as community participation, upvotes, and downvotes to customize ads.
Community Response and Privacy Implications
The changes, shared by Jutta Williams, Reddit's Head of Privacy, has sparked considerable discussion and concern among the Reddit community. Users received private messages notifying them of the forthcoming alterations, slated to be implemented in the next few days. Despite the curtailment of user control over activity-based ad personalization, Reddit is introducing new features that will enable users to restrict ads from appearing in specific “sensitive advertising categories,” including Alcohol, Dating, Gambling, Pregnancy & Parenting, and Weight Loss.
Addressing user concerns, Williams clarified that the update would not alter Reddit's data collection or sharing practices and emphasized that user information and activity would not be disclosed to third parties for external advertising.
“Our advertisers instead rely on on-platform activity—what communities you join, leave, upvotes, downvotes, and other signals—to get an idea of what you might be interested in,” stated Reddit, elucidating the dependency on user activity for ad customization.
Selective Availability and Regulatory Compliance
Intriguingly, Reddit disclosed that the ability to opt out of ad personalization would remain accessible in “select countries,” though it refrained from specifying which ones. This selective provision is presumably a strategic move to ensure compliance with stringent data protection regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforced in the European Union. Alongside the modifications to ad preferences, Reddit is undertaking a reorganization of its location customization settings and refining the descriptions of its privacy settings to enhance user understanding and clarity.
Monetization Strategies and Platform Evolution
These alterations are part of Reddit's broader strategy to augment monetization. The platform has recently rolled out a new creator rewards program aimed at incentivizing users to contribute more high-quality content. Additionally, Reddit introduced changes to its data API terms, resulting in the closure of several third-party clients and eliciting protests from various subreddits. In an interview in June, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman addressed rumors of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) and emphasized that reaching breakeven was a priority for the company in any climate.
Earlier this year, Reddit faced criticism for its decision to increase the price of its APIs. The price increases were set to take effect on July 1, 2023. However, Reddit has now said that it will waive the fees for developers of accessibility apps. Thousands of subreddits committed to going dark on June 11 and 12 to protest the change. Reddit somewhat relented by giving free API access to accessibility apps, but not others.
Reddit has since removed its award program, which allowed users to purchase awards to give to other users. This was one of the clearest ways for Reddit to monetized, so it was surprising the company removed the feature. Mods from the r/AMA subreddits abandoned the platform, meaning no more Ask Me Anything threads from celebrities or influential people.