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Targeted ads will not suffer when Google stops reading mails: Experts

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Targeted ads will not suffer when Google stops reading mails: Experts

Technology giant, Google’s move to stop scanning mails of its 1.2 billion Gmail users for ads personalisation will not greatly reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of targeted advertising, say experts.

According to experts, Google has sufficient data on users that it collects from the users’ search patterns, browsing history and the like and that data had helped Google create nuanced profiles for every user and user groups. With this move Google also shows that it takes the privacy concerns of its enterprise clients seriously.

Vivek Bhargava, CEO, DAN Performance Group, said that he does not expect this move to hugely impact digital advertising because of the quantum of demographic, psychographic data that is now available on users gives advertisers the information necessary to precisely target consumers.

Google in a blog post had announced that consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalisation. “This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalise ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalisation. G Suite will continue to be ad free,” Diane Greene, SVP, Google Cloud, said in the blog post.

Google has been reading emails to serve contextually aware ads since its launch in 2004. Speaking about how Google began scanning emails, Bhargava said, “In its early days Google did not have any data on users and resorted to scanning mails to generate a profile on its users despite the concerns raised about privacy.” Once the number of Google products grew and Google could track browsing activity, search history, etc, the company developed enough data on its users, Bhargava explained. “Context is not the only metric on which ads can be targeted, there are other effective metrics as well,” he said.

There are more than 3 million paying companies that use Google’s enterprise solution - G Suite. And as traction for this service is gaining momentum, “it has become almost essential for Google to let go of scanning mails to keep their promise of privacy to the enterprise clients,” said Bhargava.

Google will still target ads based on the profile of the user, what will suffer though is time-bound advertising. “One was able to target ads on Google based on the time-period within which the user is engaging in a certain email conversation. Say a user was making an insurance query by email, then competitors could target that user as the user is working on choosing a scheme. Now such time-bound targeting will be hard to do,” said Sanjay Mehta, Joint CEO, Mirum India.

Both Mehta and Bhargava felt that the move, in effect, relieves the privacy concerns of Gmail users. “Although the scanning is augmented, people thought that Google scanning emails for content based on which ads can be tailored was too much of a breach of privacy. Google seems to be responding to that concern by not targeting ads based on the content of the mail,” Mehta said.

Even though Google has said it will stop scanning mail for advertising purposes, it will continue to scan mail to weed out spam, malware, and generate quick responses to emails. “No other email service protects its users from spam, hacking, and phishing as successfully as Gmail. By indicating possible email responses, Gmail features like Smart Reply make emailing easier, faster and more efficient,” Greene further said in the blog post.

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