Is Gmail’s targeted advertising a bad thing?

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Leo, are you aware of Microsoft’s new advertising campaign? If you follow the link, keepyouremailprivate.com/HowTheyDoIt. If true, does it not alter your generally positive attitude towards Gmail? Since I use an email client, Outlook XP/2003 rather than Gmail’s own site, I’ve not been aware of targeted ads. But the allegation certainly worries me. Is it true? Having NSA and GCHQ eavesdropping is quite bad enough without Google joining the party.

Is it true? Sure. I’m quite aware of it and it’s nothing really new at all. And yes, it actually has caused me to lose a little respect, but probably not in the way you think.

I’ve actually lost a little respect for Microsoft!

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Any email provider can read your email

Now, it’s important for you to realize that your email provider can, in fact, read your email. That’s true for any email provider; Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, your ISP, or any service on which you might get your email. One clear indication that they can do this is that they have to be able to read your email in order to determine whether or not you’re getting spam.

Every message gets scanned by the mail servers (computers) for the characteristics of email that looks like spam. Now, I don’t know about you, but most people seem to be okay with this.

GoogleTargeted advertising

Gmail’s computers (and I really have to stress that these are their computers; there are not people staring at your email), scan your email when it’s displayed in their web interface. This time, instead of looking for the keywords that might make it look like spam, they’re looking for keywords for which they might have ads. As a result, they might display ads that are actually related to the content of your message.

There’s nothing dark and sinister about this at all, and Microsoft trying to make it look that way is disingenuous at best. Google and others have done this for ages on web pages.

Ads on a web page are very frequently targeted to the content of that very page, automatically. Google’s servers scan that page at the time it’s displayed, and choose ads that would relate. They’re simply choosing to do this with email as well. So, would you rather see ads that have nothing at all to do with you? Or would you rather see ads that might stand a chance of bringing something relevant to your attention?

Honestly, I don’t care. I rarely look at the ads in Gmail and I use it every day. Ultimately, I don’t see it as anything to be concerned about. Let’s face it: advertising is what pays for this free service that we all get to use.

Be it Gmail, or Ask Leo!.

5 comments on “Is Gmail’s targeted advertising a bad thing?”

  1. I expected, “You’re just not that important,” but that phrase wasn’t in the article.

    Once you understand that it’s just a computer program, it becomes less of an issue. Even the NSA I’m sure is using a computer and it’s the computer that flags unusual email/telephone calls for a human to check. For the vast majority of us, the computer won’t flag us because we just have uninteresting communications from a national security stand point.

  2. I have tryed to get into my Facebook page and I cannot login. Forgot my password. Plz help me to restore my password. Thank you

  3. What do targeted ads on some sites mean? Does it mean it shows you commercials based on your searches etc. (for example on porn sites) or is it more like if you are on porn site it will show you ads about for example plastic surgery on some parts etc.?

    • More similar to the first. Targeted ads often come from tracking cookies. You visit one site which uses a third party advertiser they place a cookie on the page. When you visit another site which uses that same ad server, they will recognize that cookie and serve up an ad related to the site your visited or what you bought on Amazon etc. Google is also an ad server. You can also get Google ads based on your searches.

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