Google agrees to change when it scans emails for ad targeting

Emails sent to Gmail accounts won't be scanned until after they hit users' inboxes.

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Google agreed to change its email scanning practice on Tuesday as part of a court settlement, The Verge first reported.

The changes involve the way the company scans emails for ad serving purposes. With this agreement, Google will no longer scan emails to collect data used for ad targeting before emails hit users’ inboxes.

In the class action suit — Matera v. Google, Case No. 5:15-cv-04062, filed in 2015 — plaintiffs argued that scanning emails before they are received by users violates the Wiretap Act and the California Information Privacy Act. The plaintiff represented non-Gmail parties who had sent emails to Gmail users and had not agreed to Gmail’s terms of service but had had their emails scanned for advertising purposes. The suit likened Google’s email scanning to the US Postal Service going through mail or a phone company listening in on phone calls. Google had argued that scanning and selling information was how it is able to provide Gmail services for free.

The suit also alleged that Google’s email terms of service and privacy did not mention the email scanning practice for use in advertising to users before December 19, 2014, and that the company failed to legally obtain the consent of Gmail users. The suit claimed that Google changed the terms of service after Dec. 19, 2014, to inform users that data is collected for advertising targeting but did not notify users of the update or ask users to reconfirm their agreement to the updated terms of service and privacy policy.

As part of the settlement, Google has also reportedly agreed to pay $2.2 million in attorney fees and $2,000 for each of the class representatives. The court denied Google’s motion to dismiss the case in August. The settlement still needs to be approved by the Northern California District Court.

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About the author

Ginny Marvin
Ginny Marvin was formerly Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, running the day-to-day editorial operations across all publications and overseeing paid media coverage. Ginny Marvin wrote about paid digital advertising and analytics news and trends for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, Ginny has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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