Google recently announced that it will stop scanning it’s Gmail user’s emails which they did in order to provide users with more personalized adverts. Gmail, started to do this back in 2014 so that they could provide personalized product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising and spam and malware detection.
Another reason was that the company was facing lawsuits regarding email scanning in the United States of America. So it was a move for them to come clean on the matter and avoid legal action. So it may come as a surprise why the company is doing this.
The answer lies not in what Gmail is doing but in what the parent company Alphabet Inc is doing. Alphabet has another company under it called Google Cloud. Google Cloud provides software as a service called G-Suite which allows people to access services like Gmail, document creating/editing software and cloud storage all from the Internet.
According to Google, most people who use G-Suite pay for it. The people who used Gmail under paid G-Suite, their emails were not scanned for advertising purposes and only the users of free Gmail were affected. Also, G-Suite caters for more than 3 million paying customers of which some of them are large enterprises. So it left the business customers wondering why there was this difference and what privacy implications it had. Could their emails be read when they used the free Gmail later in their day? Google Cloud therefore decided to make the two more aligned as they look towards their bright future indicated by their growth.
Now one thing to note is that adverts will still show up in Gmail. It’s just that they will now be based on data from other places that Google tracks you like Search and YouTube. Chances are your emails will still be scanned in order to help for Gmail to be good and get better at spam and malware detection. This is because the spam and malware detection filtering system is powered by deep learning which requires data to improve. The problem will always be where is the line drawn in terms of monitoring or accessing a user’s private data.