In a welcome development for privacy and data protection rights, Google has announced that it will no longer use or scan the contents of personal Gmail accounts to assist with ad personalisation.

Google will continue to advertise on its free Gmail service but in producing targeted advertising it will be restricted to using information gained from users’ online activities such as searches, browsing history and physical location, rather than mining data from the contents of their private email communications.

The policy change forms part of Google’s campaign to align its business and consumer products, and has been publicised to reassure Google’s business customers as to the confidentiality of their email communications. However, it is only consumers who are affected, as Google’s business offering “G Suite” never involved scanning emails in this way.

This comes as Google has been handed a record €2.42bn fine by the European Commission in respect of anti-competitive practices and abusing its market dominance. By artificially and illegally promoting its own shopping price comparison service to appear at the top of Google search results, Google was found to have denied its consumers real choice, as well as denying rivals the opportunity to effectively compete.