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Google to stop scanning Gmail for ad targeting

/ 08:32 AM June 24, 2017

This March 23, 2010, file photo shows the Google logo at the Google headquarters in Brussels. Google is going to stop reading your Gmail in search of opportunities to sell ads. The change announced Friday, June 23, 2017 will end a practice that Google has embraced since the company introduced Gmail in 2004, even though it raised concerns among privacy watchdogs and creeped out some users.(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

Google said Friday it would stop scanning the contents of Gmail users’ inboxes for ad targeting, moving to end a practice that has fueled privacy concerns since the free email service was launched.

A Google statement said Gmail users would still see “personalized” ads and marketing messages but these would be based on other data, which may include search queries or browsing habits.

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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.

“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 have long complained that the scanning of email contents amounts to unwarranted “eavesdropping” on users.

The internet giant earlier this year reached a settlement in a class action lawsuit in the matter, but a federal judge rejected the deal as inadequate.

US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled in March that the settlement was difficult to understand and “does not clearly disclose the fact that Google intercepts, scans and analyzes 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.”

Danny Sullivan, founding editor of the online blog Search Engine Land, called the move a “big change” for Gmail, noting that the scanning of email contents “has been the biggest hit against the services since it began.”

But 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?”

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TOPICS: advertisement, Email, Gmail, Google, infotech, Internet
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