MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Google's recent privacy run-ins with the European Commission, and scrutiny of its proposed $3.1 billion (€2.27bn; £1.54bn) acquisition of online advertising firm DoubleClick, have prompted an avowed softly softly approach to behavioural ad targeting.

The world's number one search engine claims it is holding back from such full-on marketing in favour of simply tracking users' online behaviour.

Avers Susan Wojcicki, Google vp of product management for advertising: "We believe that task-based information at the time (of a user's search) is the most relevant information to what they are looking at."

She stresses: "We always want to be very careful about what information would or would not be used."

The company says it has been testing a new feature that delivers ads based not just on a specific search term, but also on the immediately previous search.

For example, a user who types in "Italy vacation" might see ads about Tuscany or cheap flights to Europe. If the user then searches for "weather," Google will assume there is a link between "Italy vacation" and "weather" and deliver ads tied to local weather conditions in Italy.

Wojcicki adds that Google is hesitant about drawing too many conclusions about users from the search terms they enter.

She offered the example of someone searching "video games". Advertisers might be wrong to assume the searcher was a gamer and not, perhaps, a grandmother looking for a gift for her grandson.

Data sourced from / Reuters; additional content by WARC staff