Fact: Google has been reading our emails to target ads based on our search history, browsing habits, email contents and other pieces of information we put on our computer.
Google has stated that it will stop studying the contents of Gmail users’ mailboxes for advertisement targeting, ending a tradition that has fired privacy concerns since the free email service was launched.
Google said Gmail users would still see “personalised” ads and marketing messages at the top of their emails, but those would be based on other data, which may include search history and browsing practices.
Google Cloud senior VP Diane Greene said the free Gmail service would now observe the same systems as its corporate G Suite Gmail for businesses.
Diane Greene said:
“Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation after this change.”
“This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalise ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalisation.”
Privacy activists have been complaining of the scanning Google has been doing because it could be ‘eavesdropping’ on private conversations.
Google reached a settlement in a class action trial regarding the case, but the federal judge denied the case.
US District Judge Lucy Koh said in March that the case is difficult to understand and “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.”
The founding editor of Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan, said the move is a “big change” for Gmail, noting that the scanning of email contents “has been the biggest hit against the services since it began.”
However, Sullivan wrote on Twitter: “On the other hand, does it reassure consumers to know that Google has better info now about how to target them than by reading their emails?”
On the other hand, does it reassure consumers to know that Google has better info now about how to target them than by reading their emails?
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) June 23, 2017