Google says it will stop Gmail's scanning of email to target ads
As any economist can tell you, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. In other words, if something is being offered to you for “free,” it is generally safe to assume that you are the product. This concept should be familiar to anyone with a Gmail address – which, according to the company, there are currently more than 1.2 billion users. You may have noticed ads for products that you had just messaged a friend about showing up in your inbox, making you think that Google had mind-reading capabilities. The reality is much simpler: the company would filter through the contents of your emails, looking for ways to deliver you more targeted ads. Well, in a recent blog post, Senior Vice President of Google Cloud Diane Greene announced that the company will be ceasing such practices some time “later this year”.
The post is quick to capitalize on the fact that the version of Gmail found in the company’s subscription-based G Suite – a collection of Google apps directed at businesses – has been, and will continue to be, ad-free. Greene also points out that while the free version of Gmail for general consumers will cease to be used for personalizing the ad experience of its users, it will not be completely free of ads. Users can still expect to see ads shown alongside their emails, but they will be personalized based on data collected from the use of other Google services.
Google’s decision to end the personalization of ads via data collected from the content of a Gmail user’s emails does come as a bit of a surprise. Granted, the company still has plenty of other means of collecting user data for advertising purposes, so perhaps the added sense of privacy that the choice may impart upon its users is a small price to pay.