A few days before the EU slapped Google with a $2.7 billion fine, the Mountain View, Calif.-based giant made an announcement that at any other time would have generated a larger buzz: it will no longer scan emails passing through the Gmail service.
The company had previously admitted it electronically scanned user’s emails to generate personalized and targeted advertising.
In fact, in response to a class action suit taken in 2013, Google responded:
"Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use web-based email today cannot be surprised if their emails are processed by the recipient’s [email provider] during delivery. Indeed, ‘a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.'"
Google Keeps Its Eye on the Business Market
The company is now changing its tune. In a recent blog post, Senior Vice President of Google Cloud Diane Greene announced Gmail content will not be used or scanned to create ads.
“Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization. G Suite will continue to be ad free.
"This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users' settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization.”
The aim is to bring Gmail in line with the G Suite business products. The company claims 3 million paying customers use G Suite and the Gmail element, or the information associated with it, is not used for ad creation.
However, it doesn’t mean Google will not serve ads based on what it already knows about users. While it's unclear what spurred this change of heart, the company has received a fair amount of unfavorable publicity over the past year about its data and privacy practices.
Privacy advocates signal Gmail content in particular as a cause for concern. However, with the G Suite now gaining considerable traction in the enterprise, the company needed to put to rest any suggestion that it tapped into users’ information. The easiest way to reassure all users was to simply stop the practice entirely.
Google is not at a loss for data. Google Search and Android use on mobile phones provides ample data, as well as other features to construct accurate profiles of anyone who uses its services.
Google will stop its email scanning practice later this year.
Yahoo Mail Upgrades: Too Little, Too Late?
Only a few weeks after Verizon finalized its acquisition of Yahoo, Yahoo released a revamp of its email service to its 225 million monthly users.
As part of the release, users will get a newly designed service that includes new features and technology stack, as well as a new subscription for mobile and desktop called Yahoo Mail Pro.
Shiv Shankar, senior product manager with Yahoo Mail, wrote the new service will find and surface the “information you need” faster and more efficiently than the old service.
Its new Photos and Documents views service, for example allows users to see every attachment they’ve sent or received. When you want to look at a specific document, the new side-by-side preview displays attachments and email at the same time.
The new desktop service is available for global English-language users, with other languages coming soon.
For its part, Yahoo Mail Pro replaces the paid Ad Free version.
Yahoo Mail Pro offers the same ad-free experience, but with more flexibility, even if the cost is still a bit steep at $34.99 a year, a $15 drop from the previous cost.
While the functionality and user interface are a marked improvement on the previous service, this may be a case of too little, too late. Yahoo mail had already been lagging other email services such as Gmail and Outlook before news of the two massive security breaches was released. With security and reliability being the two most important qualities in an email service, Yahoo's revamp is basically the equivalent of window dressing.
Box and Microsoft Team Up on Azure
Meanwhile, San Franciso-based Box and Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft have announced an extension to their partnership which sets Microsoft up to offer Box cloud content management services on Azure to enterprise customers.
According to a statement from the companies, Box will use Azure as a strategic public cloud platform, and the companies commit to share go-to-market investments, including initiatives to co-sell Box with Azure.
In the same statement, Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Division, noted it’s all about fueling the digital transformation.
“Box shares our focus and commitment to empowering enterprises on their digital transformation journey,” Guthrie wrote. “With this new partnership, we ensure customers can take advantage of Box’s platform on Azure, and look forward to future innovations using Azure’s intelligent cloud services.”
The partnership opens up new possibilities for Box to extend the capabilities of its cloud content management solution with Azure’s Cognitive Services, while it will also look to expand its cloud data storage zones using Azure’s growing global footprint.
The new Box and Azure offering is expected to be available later this year. The companies did not share information on pricing or geographic availability at this time.
Qorus’ Content Hubs
Finally this week, Bellevue, Wash.-based document management provider Qorus has announced the release of a new add-in for Microsoft’s Office 365.
With the newly updated Document Builder for Word, users can add smart fields to content to help automatically tailor documents like pitches, proposals and contracts, which the company states will accelerate the document creation process and eliminate the risk of copy-and-paste errors.
It also allows workers to create storage hubs, where employees can keep documents related to a given project in one place.
Qorus is offering a 14-day free trial for the app in the Microsoft AppSource.