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A scanner, darkly: Master data-miner Google tweaks terms of service

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Google is providing an explicit explanation of how it automatically and routinely runs software to snoop on messages flooding in and out of a user's Gmail account – so as to better target them with ads.

The company made it clear that anyone with a Google account using any number of its services – such as search or YouTube – can expect to have their surfing habits recorded and scanned so it can dig more deeply into those actions to discern which adverts should be served up.

On Monday, the world's biggest ad broker tweaked its terms of service to include the following statement:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

The clarification comes after Google's moves in recent years to more closely lock its users' identities and likenesses into its vast online estate by nudging them to create public profiles with pictures that can also be inserted into adverts. ®

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