British politician Gavin Barwell was humiliated over the weekend after his complaint about advertising on a political press release appeared to reveal his own online searches for “Arab girls”.
Barwell, a Member of Parliament for the governing Conservatives, was apparently incensed by an online press release opposition party Labour’s Press Team had tweeted.
According to Barwell, the page featured a banner ad that said “date Arab girls”.
The Labour Press Team quickly responded, however, that the press release was released on a TwitLonger account, and the advertisements Barwell was seeing were being served by Google AdSense. In other words, it was showing ads for things that he had searched for.
Here’s how Google describes how it chooses what AdSEnse advertisements to show you:
The DoubleClick cookie on your browser
The contents of the website you’re viewing, if it’s part of the Display Network
The types of websites you visit, if they’re part of the Display Network
Whether you’ve previously interacted with any of Google’s ads or ad-type features
Anything you +1 on Google and across the web
For example, when Business Insider clicked on that link, we saw one advertisement for Google’s Chromebook, and one for Virgin Mobile.
Of course, there’s no evidence that the married politician himself was searching for “date Arab girls” — it’s not clear he was using his own computer. The Guardian reports that when they tried to access the website, it did feature a banner advertisement for a dating website at the bottom of the page, even when accessed from multiple computers, though the “date Arab girls” message could not be reproduced.
Barwell has neither deleted the tweet nor addressed the controversy.