Google has said it will no longer scan the content of Gmail messages to sell targeted adverts to users of the free service.
The Chocolate Factory made the announcement in a blog post on Friday touting the success of its G Suite, the cloud apps service for business. G Suite is ad-free and doesn't scan content – for the obvious reason that businesses wouldn't be very keen on that – and now Google says it will make the free Gmail service scanning-free too.
"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," it said.
"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. Ads shown are based on users' settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization."
The Gmail scanning system was highly controversial ever since it was introduced in 2004, but the advantages of the service were clear. At the time, most webmail accounts offered pitiful amounts of storage – 2MB for Hotmail, for example – while Google was offering a gigabyte and promised to increase that later.
While people weren't particularly enamored with the idea of having their emails automatically scanned, they certainly liked the storage enough to continue using it. Nevertheless, Microsoft's advertising whiz kids used the practice as a stick to beat Google with – albeit to very limited effect.
But Google's not going to stop pushing targeted ads – it'll just get the information to do this from your searches, YouTube watching habits, Android phone and every time you use any other Google service. And Google will still be doing some Gmail scanning to offer up its Smart Replies suggestions at the end of the messages. ®