Gmail updates terms of service to explain why it reads users’ emails

15 Apr 2014

Google has updated its Gmail terms of service along with an explanation of how it reads users’ emails in order to create more focused advertising when using Google services and viewing online adverts.

The company made users aware of the change to the terms of service last night and have detailed out how and why they read keywords that are included throughout a person’s email: “Our automated systems analyse your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customised search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.”

Under the new terms, these actions apply to every time a person uses Google’s services to upload, submit, store, send or receive content.

Companies like Google have been under increasing scrutiny in recent years given the accusations that many of the major internet companies are divulging people’s personal information to government agencies like the NSA, as well as leaving their services open to potentially harmful attacks through oversights like the recent Heartbleed bug that would allow an individual with a malicious piece of software to bypass OpenSSL encryption software, which Google uses, to gain access to some of their most important data.

In a statement about the changes, Google’s spokesperson Matt Kallman said that they “will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic