Gmail Spy Thwarted!

Breaking news y’all!

As an update to my previous post on Gmail’s Covert Spy, Google recently announced they will no longer be reading your emails in order to send you targeted ads. Read their blog post here.

An excerpt:

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.

In other words, while they won’t be targeting their ads by your emails, they will still use your search history, YouTube browsing, basically any Chrome activity you do while signed into your account. You are able to change that if you so desire, though they don’t make it simple.

Fortunately, one of my favorite things to do at work is make how-to-guides no one wants. And since I’m on summer break, I’ll make one for you.

Here’s how to keep Google’s Spy from personalizing your ads: 

Sign into your Gmail account and click the little cog on the right of the screen to open your settings.


I know you know how to do that, but all good how-to-guides start with the premise their reader is a rube.

The Settings page opens on ‘General’, you want the tab called ‘Accounts and Import’. Click on that, then select ‘Other Google Account settings.’


Are you there? Good! You’re about a third of the way in. If you need to use the restroom, now’s a good time.

The next screen you’ll find ‘Personal Info & Privacy’. Click on ‘Ads Settings.’

Personal Info & Privacy

And now that you’re in Ads Settings, you have to click on ‘Manage Ads Settings.’
(I know. This is getting ridiculous.)

Ads Settings

Now it gets exciting. Once you’re in ‘Ads Personalization’ you should see a little toggle switch. There on the right, do you see it? The one that says ‘ON’?

Ads Personalization

Click that toggle switch a few times, as if you’re trying to turn it off. It’ll give you this screen:

Do You Really Want to Turn Them Off?

And now you have to decide. No matter what you do, with a free Google account you will always get ads. And if you turn off personalization, you’ll lose your ability to block some of them.

In the end, I decided to keep mine personalized.

But all is not lost! Click “keep on” and you’ll return to the Ads Personalization page. Scroll down for a list of topics Google offers to create your own personalized list:


The way I see it, you have a couple options.

  1. Select the topics you’re most interested in and remove the ones you aren’t, OR,
  2. Thwart the Google spy by selecting the topics you’re least interested in and would never buy in a million years! Imagine the amount of money you could save, never being tempted by an ad!

Will it work? Will Google’s Spy figure out our devious plot?

I don’t know, he’s one crafty dude. But it might be worth it just to make it harder for him.

After all, Google’s Smart Reply is still a thing (the topic of my last post), and to my knowledge there’s no way to turn it off. Though if I find one, I’ll be sure to make another handy-dandy guide for you. 😉

11 thoughts on “Gmail Spy Thwarted!

  1. Excellent. I always do things like this, I also don’t allow my browser (which isn’t Chrome – and I never sign in to it unless I absolutely have too) to keep any history or cookies after each browsing session. Make it as hard for them to figure out how to track you as you possibly can, that is my motto. Why should I help them visually spam my internet time?

    1. Good call. Most of the time I forget to log out, so next time I’m on it’s like, “Hey Christi, we see you looking at that fancy thingamajig, look at this thingamig to go with it!”
      Ugh! It’s soooo annoying! 😉

  2. As a guy who’s written my fair share of rarely seen user guides, I’d say nicely done! Of course, I don’t remember recommending stopping for a bathroom break – I’ll have to remember that technique.

    As for the ads (and not just from Google), you’d think I was terribly one dimensional but fickle. Nobody seems to have told them variety is the spice of life.

    1. Ooh, a positive review from a pro! (No kidding, I’m honored. Thank you so much!)
      I think my search results must frustrate marketers horribly, as my obsessions are always short-lived.
      Google: “Suddenly you’re over Danish watches? But… ”
      Me: “OMG, that’s so two hours ago!”

  3. I’ve made how it’s for my job, but never would I have thought to publish that info anywhere. Did you upload PDFs or use some other program that creates memes for you? (I may or may not be one of the rubes you referenced at the beginning of you post. It’s best to just assume that when it comes to explaining technology to me.) sadly, I have not graduated to using Google mail, so the tutorial is lost on me. Alas!

      1. Ha! Yeah, spell check is the worst!
        As for the how-to’s, I deal in screenshots mostly, no memes for me. I have a weird fear of using them incorrectly and looking like a dweeb. Which is easier for me than I’m comfortable with.

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