Google today announced that it will stop scanning the emails of its free Gmail users for the purpose of delivering personalized ads later this year.
If you've recently received a lot of emails about photography or cameras, for example, currently Google may show you a deal from a local camera store that it thinks might be interesting to you. On the other hand, if you've reported those emails as spam, then Google would take steps not to show those ads.
Google users may still see personalized ads while using Gmail and the company's other services, depending on their account settings, but the contents of a user's inbox will no longer factor into the ads that are shown.
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It was around that time that I was getting into Macs and iPhones and I had the realization that if you're not paying for it in some way, you're the product being sold. I think this was also around the time Google started doing creepy stuff like this and becoming more invasive with tracking, throwing their "don't be evil" motto to the wind, as well as blatantly copying the iPhone functionality in their new Android OS. I started removing myself from everything Google, such as Docs and Calendar that I used all the time, and moved everything over to Mobile Me when that came out. It was a bit of a cluster, but I liked paying for it instead of selling my soul to the devil, and it has gotten a lot better over the years. I just can't trust Google to not betray my trust or to have my back if something goes wrong.
That realization led to me eventually shutting down things like FaceBook, as I realized that I was just giving them all of this information for free so they could make money off of me while massively wasting my time. I wish there were a paid social network that doesn't have all that crap, but the nature of people and getting them to part with their cash means that you'd never get the network big enough to be worthwhile. They tried that with app.net a few years ago and it failed.