Google to stop scanning private emails for personalised Gmail ads

Posted June 26, 2017

But instead of scanning a user's e-mail, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube.

GMail claims more than 1.2 billion users worldwide.

"Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization" later this year, the technology company based in Menlo Park, Northern California, said in a posting on its website, Xinhua news agency reported. The decision didn't come from Google's ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers.

If you've ever wanted more control of ads you see in Gmail, including turning off tracking completely, then you'll be able to do so. The Ads shown however are based on users' settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalisation. Millions of people have been willing to make that trade-off (Gmail is the most popular email platform in Australia), but soon on you won't have to. "G Suite will continue to be ad free", the company said.

The company also says that future "Gmail add-ons will enable features like payments and invoicing directly within Gmail, further revolutionising what can be accomplished in email".

Google Cloud senior vice president Diane Greene said in a blog that the free Gmail service would now follow the same practices as its corporate G Suite Gmail.

Privacy activists have long complained that the scanning of email contents amounts to unwarranted "eavesdropping" on users.

If Apple can "think differential" when it comes to privacy, it's time for Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others to, too.