Google Dropping Gmail Scanning For Personalised Ads
Google has announced it is to stop scanning personal or consumer Gmail accounts in order to glean information about us and our habits, which it uses for advertising profiling purposes. This data is anonymised and collated to be sold on to advertisers, and Google has always scanned our email as part of the Google account. As such, Gmail is the same as Google’s other “free” services, such as Google Maps, Google Hangouts and Google Keep: there is no cash cost but Google obtains information from account holders. In the case of Gmail, this is the price we pay for the company’s anti-spam, hacking and phishing protection technologies, and today there are over 1.2 billion Gmail accounts around the world.
Just how effective is this email scanning? It can be very effective. By way of an example, support you were messaging your significant other via Google Hangouts and you accidently sent a typo that said: “I want you be your printer.” I’ll leave it up to you to guess what I meant to say, but should your significant other decide to keep up this theme and send you emails asking how your printer cartridges were, or if you need some more paper, before you know it, Google has detected that you are in the market for printer consumables and perhaps a new printer.
The news comes from a blog post written by Diane Greene, a Google Director and Senior Vice President of Google Cloud. Greene is in charge of Google’s Cloud and Enterprise division and is the driving force behind the company’s progress in these arenas in the last eighteen months. Greene’s blog explains that this change will “bring Gmail ads in line” with how the company personalises advertising data for other Google products. The change will not remove personalised advertisements from Gmail but simply changes how the company obtains information about us.
One possible risk is that Google will not be able to ascertain so much information about the 1.2 billion accounts going forwards. Given how many billions of email that are sent and received via its servers, this could potentially result in the company gathering less information. However, Google has many different ways to gather information from users or customers. I don’t expect Gmail customers all over the world will see any difference in how the service operates or for Google to see a drop in profits following this change. This includes Android users, with either of the two official Gmail apps, or a third party email client. With so many users, Google will have to carefully consider any changes to the service going forwards. However, Google will have carefully considered its position and is sure to already have alternative ways to gather information in use.