One of Google’s most controversial Gmail features is finally going away for regular consumers. The company announced today that, sometime later in 2017, it will stop scanning the content of emails sent to Gmail accounts for its online ad personalization efforts. Google did not give a specific time frame for when this feature will be turned off.
Google’s efforts to scan email content in Gmail to send users targeted banner ads has come under fire for some time by a number of users for privacy concerns, and was even the subject of a few lawsuits in its early years. Microsoft also attacked Google for this practice as part of its now shut down “Scroogled” campaign a few years ago. Today’s announcement by Google says this change will bring “Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products.”
So what caused Google to make this alteration? Speaking with Bloomberg, Diane Greene, the head of Google’s cloud division, stated that some businesses were hesitant to sign up for the paid version of Gmail, G Suite. Even though the G Suite service does not actually scan email content for ads, Greene suggested some potential business subscribers did not feel comfortable with signing up because the consumer Gmail service continued that practice. Greene stated, “What we’re going to do is make it unambiguous.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean you will no longer see any ads when using Gmail; Google simply won’t use the content of your emails as the basis for those ads. Google will continue to show ads in Gmail based on a user’s search history, YouTube usage and more. Also, Google will continue to scan Gmail content for other things, including malware and spam messages.