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Worried about Google reading your emails? Take control of Gmail’s email privacy settings

Google is reading all your emails to show you "tailored advertising". We explain how to regain some control

Google is reading all your emails, but you still have some control over what ads you see and what information Google collects about you. That’s because Google gives you the choice to opt out of quite a lot of its targeted advertising.

If you’re logged into your Google account, or have an Android smartphone or tablet, everything you do online is tracked by Google. Over time the company is able to build up a pretty comprehensive profile of who you are, where you live and what your interests have.

The theory goes that the more information you let Google collect about you, the more accurate its adverts become. Of course, that also means that Google knows a lot about you. Here’s how to make an idiot out of Google and regain some privacy.



Sign into Gmail, open any email and either directly above or to the right of any adverts you will see a small blue ‘Why this ad?’ link. Click this, then Ads Settings to see a page titled ‘How we matched these ads’. This is Google’s way of explaining what information it used to target an advert at you. If you’re ever unhappy about any adverts Gmail is showing you can click ‘Block this advertiser’ to remove them.

There are five things you can’t stop Google using to serve you adverts – your IP address, your language, the time of day, the domain you use on Google (, for example) and crucially, the content of your emails. But you can stop it using your gender, age and even your hobbies and interests.



At the bottom of the Ads Settings page is a message that says ‘Ads enable free web services and content. Control your ads settings’. Click the link to see the ‘Settings for Google Ads’ page. This is split into two columns – ‘Ads on Google’ and ‘Google ads across the web’. Here you can decide what settings you want to disable.

At the bottom of the page are two ‘Opt out’ links, clicking these will disable interest-based adverts on all Google services and all Google ads carried on other websites. While you’ll still see ads, they won’t be based on a creepy personality profile built by Google. You can also change and edit information that Google stores about you by clicking Edit.


Unfortunately there’s no way to stop Google scanning your inbox to serve adverts. You can block the adverts from appearing by using AdBlock but Google will still look at all the emails you send and receive through Gmail.

Alternatively, you can use the basic HTML version of Gmail. Click here to access your inbox using basic HTML. Once again, Google will still scan your emails but you won’t see any adverts based on these scans.

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