Since the launch of Gmail, Google has been scanning emails in order sell targeted ads. Now the company will discontinue this practice. The company said:

Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization.

The company also claimed that over 1.2 billion people now use the G Suite Gmail service and the free consumer Gmail service, and that more than 3 million paying companies use G Suite.

One of the probable reasons why Google has made this decision now is because Amazon and Microsoft have been dominating the cloud services space: Amazon mainly with hosting services and Microsoft with its suite of corporate productivity services. Companies have been wary of Google’s email scanning practice in the past, even though it was limited to the free consumer service and not G Suite, and preferred others. This latest move might bring some of them back to G Suite.

However, Google will still have search histories, YouTube browsing and Chrome activities to shift through to place ads.

Google AdWords email targeting: Back in September 2015, Google had launched a couple of new features for AdWords, including the ability for advertisers to target customers by their email ID’s. The Customer Match feature works by allowing advertisers to upload a list of email addresses, which are then matched to signed in users on Google to let advertisers build campaigns and ads specifically designed for this audience. The company mentioned that the email IDs used should have been collected with the user’s permission, and that it will only use the email addresses to match to Google IDs and for policy compliance, and will delete it 7 days after matching.

HDFC Bank reading user emails

Earlier this year, it emerged that the online verification process for HDFC Bank’s credit card application requires users to give the bank permission to view the user’s email messages & settings and permission to view all contacts, in addition to basic info like age range and language and other email addresses. This information can be read by employees, and is likely not stored in India.

HDFC seems to channel this information though Verifi.Me’s verification services. And according to Verify.Me’s privacy policy, the company collects a lot of personal data, including name, email, tax information, etc. What’s worse is that the company will be able to continue accessing user information, the permission for which cannot be revoked by users if they have an ‘outstanding obligation’, like the issuance of a credit card.

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