Since Gmail launched in 2004, one point of constant contention with the free service was how it scanned a user’s emails to show personalized and tailored ads. However, an upcoming change later this year will see Google end this practice in Gmail.
This move does not get rid of the ads in Gmail’s web and mobile apps, but rather changes how they appear to consumers. Google frames this decision as bringing the free consumer version of Gmail more closely in line with its ad-free G Suite counterpart.
In its blog post, the company repeatedly cites Gmail’s various security and privacy-centric features. This ads-related move is likely trying to broaden the narrative of the latter point.
Ad personalization is still occurring, but it will use signals other than the scanning of your emails to target advertising. Overall, this change is in line with how other Google products show ads to users. Google is also reminding users that they have the option to disable ad personalization completely across all products.
Email scanning has always been a contentious issue for Gmail, with numerous lawsuits throughout the years. The latest from late 2016 saw Google propose a voluntary settlement that would change how their ad scanning system functions. In essence, Gmail would not scan a message until after it hit a user’s inbox.
However, a judge rejected it in March of this year, with the parties going back to the drawing board.
This transition in the consumer version of Gmail will occur later this year.