Google ads can be eerie. Wistfully search for sunny vacation spots during a grim, rainy day at the office, and it's not long until the airline ads arrive.
It goes farther than that, though. Google – through a myriad of data points that come from search, emails, Google Docs, etc. – maintains a detailed file on our habits, preferences, and major life events. (Don't believe me? Check out how hard it was for Janet Vertesi, an assistant professor at Princeton, to conceal her pregnancy from the internet).
Google is taking a step back from all this data collection, however.
The Wall Street Journal reported today that the search giant has adopted a new non-scanning policy for students' Gmail accounts and will no longer use data collected from Apps for Education to deliver-up targeted ads. (Google Apps for Education is a free service that offers Gmail accounts, calendars and cloud storage to teachers, students and school administrators. It has over 30 million users, according to the company.)
The decision follows a lawsuit last year, in which students and other Gmail users sued Google for violating wiretap laws, the WSJ said.
The company said it will soon make similar changes for all its Apps customers, including services meant for business and government users. "We’ll provide an update when the rollout is complete," Bram Bout, director of Google for Education, wrote in a blog post.
Other Gmail users will continue to have their accounts scanned.
"Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored," the company's terms read.