Google Says It Will No Longer Scan Users’ Emails to Target Ads

Google will no longer scan emails in Gmail accounts in order sell targeted advertising, the company said last week, NPR reports.

The company will make the change later this year, bringing Gmail in line with its G Suite products for business users.

“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”, senior Vice President of Google Cloud, Diane Green, wrote in a blog post.

The blog post says that “Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change”. That leaves the door open for the company to continue to scan emails for other purposes, like sorting them by priority, or suggesting replies you might send.

And Google will continue to display ads in Gmail based on what it knows about users, NPR comments.

The fact that Google was scanning users’ emails has long troubled privacy advocates, and it appears that perhaps it was the concerns of business users that finally made Google end the practice.

“Some of the regular people who use Google services disliked the way their email contents were being used to target ads way back in 2004. Yet their concerns couldn’t get much traction until Google became aware 13 years later that some current or prospective paying enterprise customers were uncomfortable with this practice”, Seth Schoen of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told The New York Times.

Though Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has expanded into businesses including mobile phones, home assistants, and autonomous vehicles, it still made 88 percent of its revenue from advertising in 2016.

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