Privacy advocates achieve a big win today when Google announced that Gmail will no longer be used for targeted ads.
Prior to this change in policy, it was common for Google to scan the contents of emails in a user's inbox to help create targeted ads. Google has now announced that they will instead rely on a user's activities on Google's sites and partner sites for those purposes. Ads are still frustrating, but at least the contents of users' inboxes are will be safe.
Google did not say what prompted it to make this change regarding Gmail , but it did note that the users of its corporate-focused G Suite service were not being scanned for the purpose of creating targeted ads. The company's blog did note that this change will bring Gmail in line with the policies of G Suite, but beyond that, they have given us no details regarding the reasoning behind the change.
However, it is possible that Google made the change to promote consistency across its brand and remove confusion about the company's policies. It is possible that companies were wary to rely on Google's G Suite service since they were unsure if Google would be reading their sensitive emails. Despite Google's insistence that they never scanned the emails of G Suite customers, it is possible that companies were wary of trusting them.
Regardless of Google's reasoning behind these changes, they're sure to be welcome. Many privacy advocates have raised concerns about such policies in the past. In recent years, such debates have only gotten more heated as concerns grew over how corporations collect and use consumer data.
Under current policy, Google scans the inbox of Gmail users to determine which ads they'll be interested in. For example, if users talk about video games a lot, then they may start seeing ads from GameStop or Nintendo. While it is highly unlikely that an actual human being ever saw those emails, the concept is still troubling for those concerned about online privacy.
Of course, Google isn't about to give up targeted ads since they are a large part of its revenue stream. Instead, they'll be determined based on a user's activities on YouTube, Google Search, and other sites. It will still be frustrating to see ads everywhere, but at least they won't be based on the contents of a users' inbox...