Scroogled No More: Google Will Stop Scanning Gmail for Ads

Posted on June 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Microsoft Consumer Services, Office 365 with 18 Comments

Scroogled No More: Google Will Stop Scanning Gmail for Ads

As part of an effort to more closely align its business and consumer versions of Gmail, Google announced that it will no longer scan users’ email to generate personalized ads. That’s right. Google is going to stop Scroogling us.

“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,” Google senior vice president Diane Greene writes. “Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change.”

Several years ago, Microsoft took a few stabs at exposing Google’s behavior of scanning email to generate personalized ads, first with Gmail Man and then with the successful (and accurate) Scroogled ad campaign. As Microsoft pointed out at the time, it only scanned email to look for malicious content. It doesn’t read your email, like Google does, to generate better advertising.

Well, now Google won’t either.

“This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products,” Greene says. “Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization. G Suite will continue to bead-freee.”

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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Scroogled No More: Google Will Stop Scanning Gmail for Ads”

  1. derekaw

    It never bothered me, I always saw Gmail as the best free email available and the cost was that Google 'read' my emails and sent me what they considered to be appropriate advertising based on the content of my communications.

    I think the Gmail service pushed other providers to make their free email services better. I remember having to juggle just 10MB of storage with Hotmail.

    • ChristopherCollins

      In reply to derekaw:

      True, it never bothered me either. Everything has a price and I was okay with it for the quality of service. I have actually evolved into a paying customer at this point, as my drive and email usage has grown over the years.

      I have O365 too, but find Google Drive easier and faster to deal with most of the time.

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to derekaw:

      It's probably becoming a lot less relevant anyway. Seems like most folks have resorted to social media for their personal communications, and I'm sure companies like Facebook have a ball harvesting whatever they wish with no intention of stopping. Email has stopped being a place to share and communicate at the personal level, so this move makes a lot of sense. It might also make the education sector a little more trusting to use Google.

  2. Chris Payne

    A few things here...

    Per a comment someone posted further down here, MS does also let you download what it knows about you.

    "Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization." Does that mean ad personalization is not off by default? Is Google simply giving you the _option_ here, as opposed to stopping the practice completely?

    And honestly, this isn't some kind of major win anymore. Ten years ago, email was a huge vein for mining user data and learning more about them. Today, not so much. Google has far better data mining tools nowadays, considering they can track every web site you visit and know exactly what you're doing on your phone all the time. I don't see this as a win for consumers.

  3. peten1020

    Here's how I read it: "Google announced that it will no longer scan users’ email to generate personalized ads". It doesn't mean that they will stop mining it, they will stop using the knowledge to generate those creepy ads.

  4. RonV42

    Google policy vs. actions. Shall wait and see, This approach is the same that Microsoft takes with Bing/

  5. PincasX

    it was accurate but I have seen no evidence to suggest it was successful.

  6. MikeGalos

    Oh, you're still Scroogled.

    You're very much still Scroogled.

    There were several Google privacy invasions mentioned in the Scroogled site. I'd hardly praise Google for partially dropping one of them.

    They're still a one trick pony that makes effectively all of their revenue from selling data about their users (that's you) to their real customers (that's NOT you). As long as that's their business model, you can't use ANY Google product and not be the product they sell at a nice profit. And in these days of increasing concern about data theft, that's getting Scroogled big time.

    • BoItmanLives

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Found the Microsoft employee. To play devil's advocate, at least Google is upfront about using data for advertising, and much of it for apps that are actually useful and create value for users.

      Microsoft on the other hand, "pay no attention to the spyware baked into the core OS" and a trashdump of third worlder scam apps littering the windows store and provided no such added value.

    • nbplopes

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Saying that Google is a one trick poney in that manner is the same as saying MS is a one trick poney because it most successful product is selling software licenses and services.

      In other words at a given level of abstraction things become meaningless which basically amounts to your comment.

      You see, Google is pure SaSS and IaSS company much as MS is today for the most part. The difference is in how they sell this.

      Google has a "Free" SaSS (productivity apps such word processing, storage, search, email, so on and so forth) layer fueled by another service that sells the service of targeting ads (its a symbiotic relationship). A service that Microsoft would like to have as successfully by the way, but all their attempts have failed, but they are still experimenting as they say.

      Google also have another model where SaSS is sold following a subscription model where the above is not applied. Pretty much like MS.

      Google also have a IaSS Cloud along with Managed Services offer, they are third in the market in this. Pretty much like MS.

      Finally Google also has very successful mobile business, that MS would like to have also by the way. The was built pretty much like MS built is PC service. Almost photocopy really.

      So how is this a one trick poney thing? Is Tesco a one trick money because its a retailer? What about Disney, most of revenue comes from Movies so? What about the entire stock market, is it also a one trick poney? You will find that most companies are a one trick money at such a high level.

      This kind of reasoning is just not good for MS. I feel that its born out of pure envy over one particular service, which is targeting ads. How MS manages to get their followers jump on this bandwagon it is only proportional to the brain power of its followers, which is not good for MS. That is how they got into trouble in the first place, a negative Reality Distortion Field.

      What I do think is that there should be laws in place that guarantee that upon subscription the ownership of the your stuff is the first thing to state in the agreement apart form security. This and legal bundaries of wha ownership really means. Because, you see, if I have a House and someone else is able to do whatever he wants with it without sharing the responsibility for it than I can't say that I am the only owner of the house is me. That is what is in Google's user agreement for their "free" services, even if they don't use it to such extent as it is explained above. MS does not have this, well MS does not have a "Free" layer either.

      You guys can vote me down as much as you want on this. But that does not make it less real.

      By the way is not more:

    • Waethorn

      In reply to MikeGalos:

      Google lets you download data on what is being saved to form their indexes. Microsoft doesn't.

  7. rameshthanikodi

    In the age of Data Is The New Oil, this bit of less intrusive data collection is appreciated :)

  8. Jeffery Commaroto

    The reality is that Google has so many other data points to pull from they don't need to scan emails anymore to personalize ads. So not really a win here for anyone.

    • IanYates82

      In reply to Jeffery Commaroto:

      And with the amount of spam you get I reckon the data from email would have to be of such low quality that it was only polluting actual stats about an individual user. Also, most people that google wishes to target (age, demographics, etc) probably don't communicate personally via email about things an advertiser would want to know and thus it's of even lower value.

  9. LocalPCGuy

    Google was upfront what their scanning email was for. Now, I don't know if they're still scanning, since they did not specifically state that they stopped scanning, only that they won't scan for use in targeted ads. Now, I think I might trust Google less, for now. Weird, huh?

  10. deep_dvd

    oh good, it's bead free. I hate those beads.

  11. Bats

    This was a never a big issue, as Google steamrolled the webmail space, adding more and more users to becoming the #1 email service in the world. Microsoft's intent was to scare Gmail users into thinking that email was being scanned like the TSA doing the same with people.

    The point of all this, is that Google is not going to finally "give in" to their criticizers *ahem Microsoft*, but simply to move on. It's simple evolution and......