As of last month, these scans for advertising and marketing purposes have been stopped, much to the pleasure of privacy campaigners.
Google justified this somewhat intrusive move by offering one gigabyte of ‘free’ webmail storage in 2004. Although the extra gigabyte was of no extra monetary value to users, they instead got bombarded with personalised advertisements and messages. Once UK-based campaign group Privacy International, they tried to get the scans blocked, however this was unsuccessful as the country’s data privacy regulator decided not to intervene.
Google now have a firm position in the marketplace as the aggregator of nearly all the data on internet usage. Their only other main competitor on this front is Facebook. This means that they are now in a strong position to be able to stop and let users read their emails ad-free.
While campaigners are hoping that this decision will encourage other providers to do the same, or to not take action like this in the first place, they are also warning users to think first before agreeing to their information being shared with third parties.
“There is no doubt that the end to the intrusive and frankly creepy process will be appreciated by a great many Gmail users. However, none of us must rest on our laurels.
“Whilst tech companies should see this as an opportunity to halt other intrusive snooping for advertising purposes, citizens equally should take greater care not to sign up to services which routinely share your personal information with third parties for the purposes of advertising or marketing.”
Renate Samson, Chief Executive, Big Brother Watch
Although the advertising will be stopping, Google will still be scanning user’s emails for features such as ‘smart replies’, search and malware-protection.
To find out how to opt out of seeing personalised ads see https://support.google.com/ads/answer/2662922?hl=en-GB.
Closing thoughts; read before you tick.