Google reveals email scanning in new terms of service

"Privacy" written atop a circuit board

Google has updated its terms of service, which reveal that the company does actually scan incoming and outgoing emails so it can target ads to users.

The new terms of service now categorically state it uses automated systems that "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." it added.

Changes would give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we've received over the last few months.

The search giant is facing legal actions over alleged breaches of US privacy regulations in its email scanning. Google has argued that in signing up to the service users have implicitly agreed to email scanning. However, one lawsuit notes that Google scans messages coming from non-Gmail users, who have never agreed to the firm's terms.

A spokesman for Google told Reuters the changes would "give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we've received over the last few months".

Last month, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Google's terms of service and privacy policies do not notify users about its email scanning processes, which are for commercial purposes.

Koh pointed out that the search company's terms did not notify plaintiffs that it "would intercept users' emails for the purposes of creating user profiles or providing targeted advertising." This has prompted Google to revise and clarify these terms.

As reported by IT Pro last year, Microsoft ran a campaign against Google accusing it of violating user privacy. It has also been accused of breaching European privacy laws.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.