By Heini Järvinen

In an update to its Gmail Terms of Service, Google has clarified that all users inbound and outbound email is scanned by automated software. Addressing the decision, a Google spokesperson said “We want our policies to be simple and easy for users to understand. These changes will give people even greater clarity and are based on feedback we’ve received over the last few months”. The updated Terms of Service states the following:

“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.”

The content of emails is scanned in order to facilitate targeted advertising.

“This is not the worst thing Google does … The really dangerous things that Google is doing are things like the information held in Analytics, cookies in advertising and the profiling that it is able to do on individual accounts. It is the amount of information they hold on individuals that should be concerning us, both because that is attractive to government but also sometimes that information leaks out in various ways like the NSA’s use of cookies in general as a means to target users,”

said Jim Killock, Executive Director of EDRi member Open Rights Group.

Gmail does scan all emails, new Google terms clarify (15.04.2014)
http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/apr/15/gmail-scans-all-emails-new-google-terms-clarify

Google updates terms of service, includes word of user email scans (15.04.2014)
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9247677/Google_updates_terms_of_service_includes_word_of_user_email_scans

It’s official: Gmail scans emails to better target its ads (only in French, 15.04.2014)
http://www.01net.com/editorial/618244/cest-officiel-gmail-scanne-les-courriels-pour-mieux-cibler-sa-publicite/

All sent and received e-mails in Gmail will be analyzed, says Google (16.04.2014)
http://arstechnica.com/business/2014/04/google-adds-to-tos-yes-we-scan-all-your-e-mails/

(Contribution by Andrew Walsh – EDRi intern)