Google will stop scanning your Gmail content and emails for ad tailoring and personalization purposes, the company announced in a blog post published Friday.
The tech giant already refrains from scanning and using content associated with accounts on its G Suite business and enterprise platform — a service that’s currently and will continue to be free of ads entirely. But now, Google will stop doing so with its personal, free Gmail service. The company was vague as far as a timeline but announced that the changes would take place later this year. “G Suite customers and free consumer Gmail users can remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount as we continue to innovate,” the company wrote in the post.
The change doesn’t mean that you will stop seeing ads — and it doesn’t mean that those ads won’t continue to be personalized. Now, however, ad tailoring will be based entirely on user settings. That’s notable because Gmail users can change their settings at will, including having the ability to disable ad personalization altogether. It’s a small switch, but one that may have a profound impact simply because of its scope. Gmail, of course, being the world’s largest consumer-level email service, with about 1.2 billion users worldwide.
An important caveat for hardcore privacy advocates: Google will continue to scan your emails, just not for ad purposes. The company’s Smart Reply feature, found in various Google apps like Inbox and Allo, requires an AI platform to read email content so it can tailor its replies. Additionally, in today’s blog post, the company also elaborated on an upcoming feature that would allow “payments and invoicing directly within Gmail” — which would also require content-scanning.
Of course, that’s probably not too much of an extra cause for concern. If you’re a regular Google user with a Google account, the Mountain View company already has a ton of information on you.