Google is finally going to stop snooping. Ever since 2004, the company has engaged in the practice of scanning the content of a Gmail e-mail to show more relevant ads to users. But later this year, that practice will be ending.
The “feature” was designed to help pay for the free Gmail service, Google said. All messages composed were scanned and analyzed for keywords. If a person was writing an e-mail where they mentioned cooking, for example, they might see an ad later for new pans. Someone sending a message to a friend where they mentioned a new baby might see ads for baby products.
It was somewhat useful to a point, but it has long been a concern for privacy advocates. And all things considered, it just creeped out users a little. Both Twitter and Facebook are dealing with privacy issued at the moment, so it’s an issue that’s at the forefront of most people’s minds.
Of course, there will still be ads within Gmail. But instead of checking to see what a message was about, Google will use other factors (including browsing history like most online ads) to create ads. Google says that each of its over 1 billion users will still see ads curated to their tastes.
Google says that once the change is made, the free version of Gmail will operate much like the subscription version many businesses have purchased. For the business version, although ads were shows, messages have never been analyzed.
Gmail is the world’s largest e-mail service, so it’s clear that the practice of scanning messages wasn’t something that bothered users too much. But it was one of the biggest criticisms about the service, and something that major tech players like Apple and Microsoft spoke out against, so it’s something that Google is happy to put to rest.