March 30, 2011 at 11:27 AM ET
What if your email service gradually learned from the emails you send and read so that it could show you ads which you might actually be interested in?
That's exactly what Gmail will be doing soon.
TechCrunch reports that Google will soon begin rolling out a new ad system that will serve up more personalized ads to Gmail users. This new system basically means that you should get more ads which are relevant to you and fewer entirely random ones:
Google says that the system uses signals similar to those utilized by Priority Inbox, the automated system launched last August that attempts to highlight which of your incoming email is most important. These signals include things like who sent the message, whether or not you read it, and keywords that appear in the message.
For example, if you frequently email with your friends about cooking (and you actually read those messages), Gmail might start showing more ads related to cooking classes or a local merchant that specializes in cookware. Google says that by improving its existing ads its reduced the number it shows to users by a third, and it hopes to continue that trend with this new system.
Now before you panic and worry that someone is snooping through your email and handpicking ads for you, know this: The system is fully automated — as in, no human is actually reading your messages and no personally identifiable information is handed to advertisers.
All that's happening is that Google's improving the chances that you'll want to click an ad.
Like many other Google features, this new ad system is turned on by default, but you will be able to opt-out of it via your Gmail settings once it's up and running.