Google stops scanning Gmail messages for ads in Apps for Education

Google's practice of serving ads based on the content of Gmail messages has long been controversial

Google will no longer scan the email messages of students and other school staff who use its Google Apps for Education suite, exempting about 30 million users from the chronically controversial practice for Gmail advertising.

Apps for Education is used by students at all levels, from kindergarten to university, so a portion of the user base is made up of minors.

"We've permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education, which means Google cannot collect or use student data in Apps for Education services for advertising purposes," wrote Bram Bout, director of Google for Education, in a blog post.

Google rivals like Microsoft, as well as privacy advocates, have long criticized the company for scanning Gmail messages and serving ads to users based on the content of the emails.

The company is also facing at least one lawsuit challenging the practice. In the case "Google Inc. Gmail Litigation," number 5:13-md-002430 being heard in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, several plaintiffs allege that by scanning the content of their Gmail messages, Google violated wiretapping laws and breached their privacy.

Google is also removing the option for Apps for Education administrators to allow ads to be shown to their users. Until now, ads were turned off by default, but admins could turn on this feature at their discretion.

"We're also making similar changes for all our Google Apps customers, including Business, Government and for legacy users of the free version, and we'll provide an update when the rollout is complete," he wrote.

Another change announced Wednesday impacts Apps for Education users who were running AdSense ads on sites and pages they created using the suite's Google Sites Web builder service. These users will retain the ability to display those existing ads on their websites but they will no longer be able to edit or add new AdSense ads to existing sites or to new pages, according to Google.

Google will hold a Hangout on Air session on Thursday at 9 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time to discuss this announcement. Participants will include Bout, Jonathan Rochelle, director of Product Management for Docs and Drive, and Apps for Education customer Hank Thiele, CTO for Maine Township High School District 207 in Park Ridge, Illinois.

"We'll be discussing these changes and answering your questions. We look forward to hearing from you," Bout wrote.

Google will continue to scan messages in its consumer Gmail version and serve up ads based on their content.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment further.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags applicationsGooglesecuritye-mailsoftwarecollaborationSoftware as a servicecloud computinginternetprivacy

More about GoogleIDGInc.Microsoft

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Juan Carlos Perez

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place