Google has announced that they will stop reading the contents of Gmail users’ inboxes to help sell ads, which ends a practice that has fueled privacy concerns since its debut in 2004. This practice has helped finance the free service by scanning through topics that were discussed in Gmail users emails and showing related ads to the topic in their inbox. The email scanning practice has been compulsory with no option to be turned off. This move is designed to re-establish confidence among business users in order to ensure confidentiality of their business operations.
In 2014, Google revised their terms of service for the email scanning practice by stating that incoming and outgoing emails were analysed by automated software which would only target customers with the free version of Gmail for personal use. Users who have an upgraded business G Suite account have never had their emails scanned.
“Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.” – Statement from 2014 Terms of Service
Although the email scanning practice will end, Google will continue to display personalised ads and marketing messages that are based on other collected data, including browsing history and search queries.
According the Google Cloud senior vice president Diane Green, “Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. 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.”
If you would like to opt out of seeing personalized ads, click here for detailed instructions.