Advertising in Free Email Services

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Almost half (46 percent) of American consumers admit to having concerns about their free email provider scanning personal emails for advertising purposes, according to research released today by GMX, www.gmx.com.  Of those that use a free email service, 30 percent did not know that it was common practice for large email providers to scan private emails for keywords that are linked to targeted advertising. 

The GMX ‘Attitudes toward Email’ study found that while the American public are heavy users of free email services, 46 percent of Americans were worried about how most free email services allow the content of their emails to be scanned in order for suitable advertisements to be placed around them.  Negative responses ranged from embarrassment to anger.

More than one-third of Americans (37 percent) believe that users should be able to opt out of such scanning.  21 percent of respondents were not bothered by the practice and only 3 percent believed that the practice was in their best interest.  Remarkably, the study reveals that a further 30 percent of the US public is unaware that free email providers routinely allow their users’ emails to be scanned for tailoring ads.

Eva Heil, Managing Director, GMX, said, “It is understandable that many Americans are wary about their private emails being scanned for advertising reasons.  It is certainly important that every user is at least informed if this is done by their email service.  At GMX, we treat emails just like sealed letters, and so we will never scan private email content in this way.” Heil added, “Most users only realize that their personal emails are being scanned after noticing strangely optimized ads around their Inbox.  Consumers should bear in mind that they have a choice of free email services that don’t do this.  If they are uncomfortable with the practice, they should seek out a provider that focuses on privacy and does not scan email content.” 

 

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1 comment

Susan Whitehurst 09-02-2008 2:58 PM

Privacy is certainly appreciated, along with the free service. Even more important is how to avoid confronting users with advertising they find annoying and/or offensive, along with the free service. That applies to websites as well as email services. How do you handle that - by scanning, or by not scanning? There must be better options.

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