Google Updates Terms of Service, Puts It in Writing That It Scans Your Emails to Target Ads

If you want to use Gmail, you must agree to Google's scanning practices

By on April 15th, 2014 09:03 GMT

It’s not exactly a secret to anyone anymore that Google has a system that scans your emails to make sure that the right ads are delivered, especially since the company has also been sued over this.

But now, the company has finally updated its terms of service, informing users that the incoming or outgoing emails are automatically analyzed by software created to target ads correctly.

The revisions basically spell out how Google scans emails both when they’re stored on the company’s servers and when they’re moving within the servers.

“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,” reads Google’s new Terms of Service.

This should offer Google some protection against any potential lawsuits since it’s already facing a lot of trouble because of this particular practice.

Last month, a US judge made a favorable decision for Google by preventing users to unite in a class action. The issues appeared when non-Gmail users were trying to get a slice of the pie and get involved in a class action against Google.

The company argued that it would be impossible to assess just how many non-Gmail users were impacted by this particular system. Their identity couldn’t be ascertained without sending an email notice all non-Gmail users whose addresses were in the company’s system. Such a procedure, Google said, was unprecedented and impossible to accomplish.

The judge agreed with Google and dismissed the issue, saying that the plaintiffs’ claims weren’t similar enough to justify combining them in a single lawsuit.

Regardless, Google still faces some serious charges. The company is being accused of violating several laws, including the federal anti-wiretapping statuses for implementing the email scanning system.

The company hopes that the Terms of Service changes will automatically protect the company. After all, to use any of its products, one must agree to the entire list, including having their emails scanned.

Matt Kallman, Google spokesperson, said that the changes would help people gain more clarity regarding the services offered by the company and that they were based on feedback received over the past few months.

Considering the fact that the changes come in the wake of several revelations regarding the NSA’s mass surveillance practices, users may not be too thrilled that Google is putting this practice in ink when they were actually hoping for the company to stop doing this.

Even so, when dealing with Google, one must remember that this is a company that makes money from advertising. Most of the many services it offers the world, including Gmail, are free to use and there are few people who actually pay to get more storage space. One way or another, Google must make up for the lost money since it’s not an NGO.

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