Google Will Stop Scanning Your Emails To Show Personalized Ads In Gmail

SAN FRANCISCO — Google will stop reading your email to target ads, a practice which has been widely criticized by privacy watchdogs and industry competitors and even prompted some consumers to file lawsuits.

Since 2004, when Google first introduced the popular email service, Google has had machines scan the words and contents of Gmail messages to show related ads, giving marketers a finely targeted way to reach consumers.

Starting later this year, Gmail users will no longer have their correspondence scanned, the Internet giant said Friday.

That does not mean Google will stop showing ads in Gmail. Instead, it will rely on other indicators of what ads will appeal to its 1.2 billion Gmail users.

The decision came from Google’s cloud and business software unit which is looking to attract more corporate customers to its offerings, called G Suite, that compete with Microsoft.

Google says the move brings the free Gmail service in line with the paid version of the service that it peddles to businesses.

That version does not have any ads and Google says business emails are not scanned.

“G Suite customers and free consumer Gmail users can remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount as we continue to innovate,” Diane Greene, Google’s senior vice president of cloud, said in a blog post.

Apple and Microsoft have both assailed Google for the practice. Microsoft even ran campaigns: “Your email is nobody else’s business.

But Google makes it their business. … Even if you’re not a Gmail user, Google still goes through your personal email sent to Gmail and uses the content to sell ads.”

The sharp criticism did not diminish the soaring popularity of Gmail which is now the world’s largest email service. It did, however, confuse and concern business customers who did not want their correspondence scanned by Google, Greene told Bloomberg. “What we’re going to do is make it unambiguous,” she said.

The concession on the consumer front shows how important the cloud computing and enterprise software businesses are to Google, which is investing heavily in both.

1 comment

  1. Is it the end of Google’s ‘big brother’ policy?

    The software giant announced that it will stop scanning users’ private e-mail addresses, as it has done until now to tailor personalized advertisements to anyone on the Internet.

    Google Cloud senior vice president Diane Greene said that Google’s free Gmail email service will continue to offer personalized advertisements, but said that it would switch to the less-intrusive method used in its corporate G Suite Gmail, which it sells to businesses.

    “Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change,” Greene said.

    “This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization.”

    Privacy activists has expressed concern about the scanning of users’ email content and contended that it constituted an invasion of privacy. The company had reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit over the reading of emails earlier this year, but a federal judge rejected the deal as inadequate.

    US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled in March that the settlement reached in the lawsuit was difficult to understand and that it “does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyses the contents of emails sent by non-Gmail users to Gmail users for the purposes of creating user profiles of the Gmail users to create targeted advertising.”

    Despite Google’s assurances, some e-mail messages will still be under the control of the software giant, but this time it will be for security purposes only. Company personnel will act to prevent the hacking into e-mail programs and messages which are carried out in attempts to steal credit card or personal information. The company will soon launch the “Smart Reply” option, which offers possible answers to an e-mail message, based on responses to previous similar messages.

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