Tech giant Google has promised to stop reading personal emails, and it sounds as if the company's enterprise clients are behind the decision. The company announced in a blog post Friday that it will no longer scan emails sent to personal accounts on its Gmail service to target ads.
According to Diane Greene, senior vice president at Google Cloud, the decision reflects the company’s desire to bring its consumer product more in line with its enterprise service, which she said had more than doubled in use in the past year. The decision will likely have a huge impact. Gmail is the single largest email account provider in the world, with more than 1.2 billion users.
Bringing Consumer Service in Line with Enterprise
"G Suite's Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalization, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service," Greene said in the blog post. "This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products."
Greene said that Google now has more than 3 million paying customers for its G Suite service of productivity apps, which includes Google Docs, Drive, Calendar, Slides, and Sheets. And the decision to stop scanning user emails is coming from the company's cloud division, rather than from its ad team. That would seem to indicate that the cloud unit considered email scanning, which has always been controversial, to be a significant barrier to its business.
That doesn't mean that Gmail is going ad free. Consumer users will continue to see ads displayed on their Gmail accounts. Although the company will no longer be scanning the content of user emails to personalize the ads they'r shown, it will continue to use information in users' settings to decide which ads to serve. But users have the ability to change their account settings and disable ad personalization entirely if they so choose.
New Focus on Enterprise Businesses
While enterprise users have never had to worry about the company scanning their emails, the distinction between the consumer and the enterprise service was apparently lost on some clients. By ending the practice in its consumer business, Google appears to be hoping that its stance on the matter will now be unambiguous.
The fact that Google is willing to prioritize the needs of its enterprise business over ad revenues represents a major shift for a company that has always depended on advertising for the core of its business.
And while Google has expanded massively beyond its early days as a search engine to embrace autonomous car technology and artificial intelligence, last week’s decision seems to indicate that the company is more focused on its non-advertising and cloud-based businesses than it has been in the past.