Google’s Lawyers Reveal That Google Scans Student Email Even When Ads Are Off In Google Apps For Education

This is not new, Google is known for violating privacy policies. Recent information from Google’s own lawyers reveled that Google is scanning student’s mail content even when the ads are turned off for better ad targeting. Google is claiming that they are using this data from students to target them with ads. Microsoft has clearly said that they don’t mine user data for ad targeting.

Whether or to what degree these last two conditions are actually met by specific services such as Gmail or is of course a pertinent question. Currently Google faces legal challenges to its use of consumer data mining in both the U.S. and the European Union. EU data protection authorities in particular have determined that Google fails to inform consumers properly of its conduct or obtain their consent, while a major class action law suit in California advances similar accusations. Although appears to have avoided such challenges to date, we should certainly expect that regulators and courts will hold it to the same high standards as Gmail.

The Google and Microsoft education suites discussed above operate under quite different rules than the firms’ ad-based consumer email services. Office 365, developed from Microsoft’s enterprise server-based software packages such as Exchange and SharePoint, was never designed to serve ads and does not have the functionality to create ad-targeting user profiles based on data mining. Microsoft’s Office 365 web site makes an entirely unambiguous pledge in this regard: “We do not mine your data for advertising purposes.”

Google Apps for Education, by contrast, has a more ambivalent policy regarding advertising. While Google pledges not to serve ads to students without schools’ permission, its Google Apps suite, which is a repurposed version of Google’s Gmail and other consumer services, was designed from the ground up to include ad-serving as well as highly sophisticated user profiling and data mining capabilities. Google explicitly offers schools the option of enabling ad serving to student users of Google Apps for Education. Although it does not yet offer to share the resulting ad revenues with schools that choose the ad-serving option, it has clearly left the door open to such revenue sharing in the future. Indeed, it is hard to see why Google would explicitly write the ad-serving option into its standard contract with schools if it did not hope one day to make ads for students a default and perhaps even mandatory feature of Apps for Education.


  • rjmlive

    I’m not sure it’s possible that I could express a big enough fuck off to Google. If there was only a way to keep track of youtube videos without a google account at all.

    People don’t seem to care that Google sells your private information for profit. Enormous profit. And you don’t even get a thank you, let alone a hint of commission.

    Ditch them completely. Life is not bad without Google.

    • Phil_A_Shio

      Ugh they don’t sell the information, they use the information to targets ads to you. The data is far, far, far too valuable for Google to just sell it to the advertisers, have you though this through?

      • rjmlive

        Sorry, yes, they hoard it and lease it for enormous profit to the highest bidder and use non-competitive practices to gain and retain it.

      • Asgard

        Not true. Ads are not the only thing they sell. They sell trends and other analytics too.

      • lubba

        pontential for misuse and hacking (stealing).

    • Steven Luker

      I know it’s not the best option, but its possible to use something like Delicious (bookmark site). I do this a lot to keep everything in one place

  • koenshaku

    I need to see what else is using that email before I kill it. I only use it on my mobile

  • lubba

    Teachers and professors aren’t as smart today as they use to be. Google has a reputation. They and students and any institution should know that reputation by now- Google is in the info gathering business, Android is open source, which is unsafe for many institutions. Its funny how many think google docs, chrome, bla bla is awesome.

  • freeman

    This string Microsoft keep plucking has well and truly broken some time again. First every decent email serve scans emails. There is spam, antivirus and filtering. The other problem with Microsoft have is unlike Google there is evidence that Microsoft’s data gathering allows third parties to re-personalise that data. This was shown to be the case in the last Presidential election. Then when you also consider that Microsoft have built Bing Smart Search right into windows 8.1 meaning every even local search on your windows 8.1 PC is being tracked and logged by Microsoft. This then has the potential to be sold off to a third party in such a way that it can be re-personalised back too you. Teachers are better informed than you think.

    • KelvBlue

      What does this have to do with Microsoft? Spin it however you like, but Google is the one facing these two major lawsuits now both in US and EU

      • freeman

        When you consider one of these so called major lawsuits was filed on behalf of less than 20 people and it was already kicked out of court in December only to be refiled again its been changed to be about changes in Google’s privacy policy. Its not about violation of privacy. Even then they have not been found to be doing anything wrong as of yet in either of these cases. Either of which are far from major.

        As for Microsoft the original post makes multiple references to Microsoft’s policy’s and pledges in regard to these services. Of course while these services may or may not be gathering data is of little concern when you consider smart search gathers all searches even local on windows for the very purpose it is critical of Google doing. On top of that the last US election shows that this un-personalised data which is sold to third parties can actually be re-personalised by those third parties which is astounding. Could you image if Google had done this. Then when you add to that the founder, former chairman and current technical advisor to the new CEO is involved with a database of K12 students data included extremely sensitive data such as social security number, exam results to personal data such as ambitions and makes it available to third party private companies.

        These are unchallengeable facts that violate the personal privacy way beyond anything Google has done. Unlike another poster who widely paints all teachers and professors as not smart they do know what Google’s model is, they do know what happens with their data.

        • KelvBlue

          There is multiple lawsuits that were filed against Google, but putting those aside, this article is pertaining to the action of Google apps that still data mining even though the option to receive ad is turned off.

          Microsoft’s Outlook was on the same scrutiny as well but was cleared of any malpractice at the moment.

          While your concern about Microsoft’s searches can be valid, I found no evidences that they still data mining when I opt to turn them off, both locally and online.

          But I do not know how you can relate this article to another Microsoft PR stunt?

          • free

            The article says Google scans emails even when ads are turned off. It doesn’t say scanning emails is turned off just the delivery off ads.

            There is no option from Google to turn off email scanning just as there is no option to turn it off on Here’s a segment from outlooks terms and conditions proving Microsoft do scan your emails and more. Infact the only thing gmail does differently is deliver ads based on the content.

            “For example, we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use. When processing your content, Microsoft takes steps to help preserve your privacy.”

            Outlook is not under scrutiny neither is Gmail. The court cases you refer to are to do with Google changing from a privacy policy per product to a single privacy policy. They have nothing to do with gmail, the scanning of email, mining data or the delivery of ads.

            The concerns are valid, and the you can just turn it off argument for most consumers is of little help since they do not even know it exists. If Microsoft where serious about users privacy then they would not have sneaked in such a feature in a point release, informed all users of the feature or made it opt in. Many people leave this on as they are not aware that Microsoft is data mining all searches, even local searches and using that to deliver ads without many users knowledge. Privacy is as much about informed choices and sneaking this in like this is a major violation of trust.

          • KelvBlue

            Did you actually read the source article or you just look at the title here and comment?
            The source article highlighted Google’s act of data mining, as in building a profile of you even though the advertisement option is turned off. Scanning email and building a profile of you is totally different thing. Where do you get the idea of turning off email scanning?
            But then again, the author here successfully baited you.

  • freeman

    Its funny when you consider there then Chairman now technical adviser to the CEO has been gathering personal data and sharing it with private companies for over a year.

  • ThatGuy

    Okay, I think that no human at Google will ever touch a student’s email, and yes, the emails are scanned for words to make relevant ads, but it’s not like Google’s the only company doing it.
    Not pointing fingers at any other company whatsoever.
    But Google’s not the only one.

  • Pedro

    I find amusement in how people complain about their privacy, despite using the services without being charged and agreed with the terms of service for it. They really sound like they have the secrets to the universe in their mailbox and don’t want everybody to know.

    If you are genuinely concerned with your privacy, then simply encrypt your emails.