Over the last couple of months Google has been catching a little bit of heat over it's ad servicing practices. While we should have always known that Google used Gmail scans to help better serve up ads to users, it's been after the recent bombardment of criticism that they have decided to stop scanning students Gmail accounts altogether. Google will continue to scan regular accounts and provide ads that are relevant to the user, but this action will stop for any education based Gmail accounts whether they be student accounts or faculty as it apparently violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Along with education based Gmails, Google offers those that are part of the Google Apps for Education Program other free services like cloud storage, calendars and apps that students and anyone in the program can use to create documents. After recent court cases where Google was put under the microscope for the way they handled such account information, Google says that they never placed ads inside of any of the free apps that were handed out for use as part of the program. Since Gmail scanning continued, some were afraid that Google was using such data acquired from the email scans to show ads to students in other locations around the web when browsing. Although potentially scanning student and faculty gmails may have been in violation of the law that protects student and school records, Google says that it complied with the law. Whatever the case is, all student and faculty Gmail accounts associated with Apps for Education will no longer be scanned.
It's a little surprising that people would be in such an uproar about this particular practice when various other sites do the exact same thing. Facebook might be one of the worst offenders, as any one profile can potentially house just as much information data as a Gmail account. Either way this doesn't affect regular Gmail accounts as we'll continue to see relevant ads in our inbox and elsewhere. Free services like Gmail and Calendar and other Google apps are't directly making Google any money, so the use of ad targeting is what pulls in some of the cash for them. We suppose that if you want to avoid this kind of activity from Google, you'll have to get yourself a Gmail account that would be associated with one of the schools that is part of the Apps for Education program.