Privacy advocates are rejoicing with the news that Google will cease its practice of scanning its users’ email messages to target them with ads, according to the BBC.
The move, which Google announced in a recent blog post, will result in more similarities between the personal and business versions of the email client. The company had come under fire in recent years for what privacy advocates said was a major violation of trust.
In many ways, scanning has been at the core of Gmail since Google first launched the service in 2004. At the time, it offered much more storage than any of its competitors, a cost the company offset through the selling of advertising. Several organizations pushed to block these scans over the years.
Although attempts to enforce greater regulations on Google have largely failed, the tech giant apparently decided to change course in an effort to attract more new customers to Gmail. According to the company, Gmail currently has more than 1 billion unique monthly users.
In 2011, Microsoft, perhaps Google’s largest competitor in the space, launched a series of ads depicting “Gmail Man.” The character would sift through Gmail users’ email messages looking for keywords.
There is one important caveat to this announcement, however. While Gmail will cease scanning email messages for the purpose of advertising, general scanning is likely to continue. That’s because several Gmail features, such as its Smart Replies, still rely on these scans to operate effectively.