Since Gmail’s launch in 2004, one point of frequent contention was how the free service scanned emails to show tailored ads. Google has today announced that it is ending this personalization practice in Gmail later this year.
This move does not remove ads that appear in Gmail’s web and mobile app, but rather changes how they appear to consumers. Google frames this decision as bringing the free version of Gmail in line with its ad-free G Suite counterpart.
In a blog post, the company repeatedly cites Gmail’s various security and privacy-centric features. This ads-related shift is likely trying to broaden the narrative of the latter point.
Ad personalization still occurs, but it will leverage signals other than the scanning of emails to target advertising. Overall, this change is in line with how other Google products show ads to users. Google is also reminding users that they have the option to completely disable ad personalization across all products.
Email scanning has always been a contentious issue for Gmail, with numerous lawsuits over the years. The latest from late 2016 saw Google propose a voluntary settlement that would change how their ad scanning system functions. In essence, Gmail would not scan a message until after it hit a user’s inbox.
However, a judge rejected it in March of this year, with parties returning to the drawing board.
This transition in the consumer version of Gmail will occur later this year.
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