Google will stop its long-standing practice of scanning the contents of individual Gmail users for advertising purposes, the company announced in a blog post today. The practice, something Google has done nearly since the launch of its email service, allows the company to digest the contents of email messages and use them to deliver targeted ads within Gmail itself.
Users are allowed to opt out, and Google also reserves the practice only for personal Gmail users and not those of corporate accounts. However, the practice has made it difficult for Google to find and retain corporate clients for its cloud services business, according to Diane Greene, Google’s cloud division head, who spoke with the Financial Times. This is due to general confusion over Google’s business tactics and an overall apprehension to trust the company with sensitive data, the report says.
“G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalization, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service,” Green wrote in today’s blog post. “Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products.”
Greene’s role, since her hiring in November 2015, has been to convince more companies to rely on Google’s G Suite and to move more data off competitors’ services and onto Google’s cloud. This has been a bit of an uphill battle for Google, as both Microsoft and Amazon have emerged as two of market leaders in providing cloud services, with Amazon primarily providing hosting and Microsoft providing corporate productivity services. Now, Google hopes it can bring more customers on board by convincing them that its practices won’t jeopardize corporate privacy.
The move to end targeted advertising in Gmail doesn’t mean users won’t still see ads. Google can still parse search histories, YouTube browsing, and other Chrome activity as long as you’re signed into your Gmail account. But for those who might have been wary of Google’s ad-targeting practices in the past, this may put those worries to rest. The company certainly hopes it will do so for the worries of potential corporate clients.