Feeds

Blogger silences Google ads with death and destruction

Gmail's inner prude

Security for virtualized datacentres

If nothing else, it's sure to amuse Steve Ballmer.

The Microsoft chieftain has been known to turn his nose up at the way Google targets ads on its Gmail service, accusing his bete noire of reading your email. Google does in fact read your email - or at least, Google machines do - and there's nothing you can do about it. Short of using Hotmail. But a citizen blogger has noticed a roundabout way of fooling Google into disabling Gmail's targeted ads.

As Joe McKay points out, Google turns off its sponsored links if an email mentions suicide, death, 9/11, and murder. Or other words to that effect.

Some real live Googlers were set to visit a "new media" class McKay was teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, and in preparation, he decided to actually read the Gmail fine print. He soon stumbled onto a sentence explaining that the web-based email service would refrain from posting ads if a message contained certain content. According to the About Gmail page, Google filters "block ads from running next to messages about catastrophic events or tragedies, erring on the side of not displaying an ad if the content is questionable."

Sure enough, when McKay sent a short message to his own Gmail account and tagged it with the post script "suicide death 9/11 murder," the ads disappeared. At first, the trick didn't work with longer messages. But then he added more tragedy. And it did. According to his calculations, the ads disappear if there's a tragic mention every 167 words. This also works, McKay says, with some (but not all) of the words on George Carlin's famous list of seven things you can't say on television.

"To ensure a quality user experience for all Gmail users, we avoid showing ads reflecting sensitive or inappropriate content by only showing ads that have been classified as 'Family-Safe,'" reads the About Gmail page.

Google has not responded to our request for comment.

And so, McKay has discovered that if you have a friend on Gmail, you can turn off their targeted ads by sending them messages littered with morbidity and filthy name calling. He does realize this is far from the perfect ad blocker, but he likes it that way. "I'm an artist," says McKay, now an assistant professor of new media at Purchase College, State University of New York, "so I like the awkwardness of the hack. You get completely free email, but you have to pay for it with unspeakable words."

But if you're interested in stripping the ads from your friends' email clients without offending their delicate sensibilities, you can do so. Simply add the trigger words in white text on white background - and hope your friends don't search for c***suckers. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Cops apologise for leaving EXPLOSIVES in suitcase at airport
'Canine training exercise' SNAFU sees woman take home booming baggage
Apple's Mr Havisham: Tim Cook says dead Steve Jobs' office has remained untouched
'I literally think about him every day' says biz baron's old friend
Jony Ive: Apple iWatch will SCREW UP Switzerland's economy
Apple's chief designer forgot one crucial point about overpriced bling
Flaming drone batteries ground commercial flight before takeoff
Passenger had Something To Declare, instead fiddled while plane burned
Apple Fanbois (and girls) already lining up for NEW iPHONE
You know, that one that hasn't even been announced yet?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.