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Google to Stop Scanning Gmail Messages to Serve Up Ads Google apparently has enough data about your online activity to serve you targeted advertisements without its controversial email scanning program.

By Tom Brant

This story originally appeared on PCMag

qoppi | Shutterstock.com

Google already knows so much about you that it has decided it no longer needs to read your emails in order to serve up targeted advertisements.

That's not to say Gmail will now be ad-free: the search giant simply announced on Friday that it is bringing its email service in line with the rest of its free consumer web services, which display ads based on your search history, YouTube viewing history and a wealth of other data Google collects about your online activity.

The move will also bring Gmail in line with the paid G Suite email service that Google offers to its corporate customers. G Suite emails are not scanned for targeted advertising, and Google said that it wanted to standardize its practices to appease its more than 3 million G Suite customers, who might be worried about the privacy of their emails.

"What we're going to do is make it unambiguous," Google's Senior Vice President of Cloud Diane Greene told Bloomberg.

Google's practice of scanning Gmail messages has long been controversial, with the company defending multiple lawsuits and even facing wiretapping charges in the U.S. Google argued in court in 2013 that its users should have a reasonable expectation that their emails are subject to "automatic processing," but the judge disagreed, finding that scanning is not considered an "instrumental part of the transmission of email."

Other litigation is still ongoing, including over whether Google is required to prominently disclose its scanning policy. The company added an explanation of the scanning to its terms of service in 2014, but doing so did not satisfy a federal judge in San Francisco, who rejected a legal settlement in March that proposed to pay $2.2 million to lawyers, but nothing to consumers.

There are more than 1.2 billion users of the free Gmail service, according to Google. The company said in a blog post that it will "keep privacy and security paramount" as it adds more features to Gmail.

Tom Brant

News reporter

Tom is PCMag's San Francisco-based news reporter. 

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