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Google has begun telling users of its Gmail service exactly why it is serving up specific ads that creepily refer to the content detailed in individual email correspondence.

"Our advertising system is designed to show the right ad to the right person at the right time," said the world's largest ad broker in a blog post penned by the company's advertising veep Susan Wojcicki yesterday.

"Over the coming weeks, we’re making improvements to provide greater transparency and choice regarding the ads you see on Google search and Gmail. Soon, you’ll be able to learn more about these ads by clicking the 'Why these ads' link next to ads on Google search results and Gmail."

There's a little more to it than that, however. The new feature will also allow Gmailers to see information about search ad targeting as well as opt out of being fed ads from certain advertisers.

Google added so-called "personalised ads" to its Gmail service in early 2010.

Since then, the company is now subject to regular privacy audits under the supervision of the Federal Trade Commission in the US after Google's epic fail with the stealth bolt-on of Buzz to Gmail.

More generally, regulators in Europe and the US are increasingly gently poking internet businesses to be more transparent about how they serve up targeted ads.

No wonder then that Google wants to be seen to be doing the right thing by adding the "Why these ads" functionality to Gmail. ®

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