You can’t stop Google from scanning your inbox or serving you ads, but you can opt out of receiving personalized ads in Gmail. And you can eliminate one prominent ad banner altogether.
Matt ElliottSenior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Google updated its terms of service this week to clarify the manner in which software automatically scans and analyzes the content of your emails so the company can deliver what it calls "tailored advertising," in addition to ferreting out spam and malware. When you signed up for your Gmail account, you consented to such things.
If you've been using Gmail for any length of time, however, then you've likely learned to ignore the ads it displays above, below, to the side, or directly inside your inbox. Perhaps with Google's terms of service in the news this week, you've given new thought to the ads you see in Gmail. There is no way to stop some of the ads from appearing, but if you dig around in settings, you can opt out of targeted ads. And you can eliminate one ad that sits at the top of every message you read when using accessing Gmail via a desktop or laptop.
Perhaps you don't like the targeted ads because they are a constant reminder of Google's ever-vigilant scanning of your personal correspondence. Or perhaps you just find targeted ads harder to ignore than ads that aren't tailored to you and your interests. Whatever your reason, you can opt out of what Google refers to as "interest-based ads" and receive contextual ads that may be based on the message you are currently reading but not on the content of your inbox on the whole as well as your Google search history and other account information.
To opt out, head to Google's Ad Settings page. Scroll down to the "Opt-out settings" area and click the "Opt out" link for "Opt out of interest-based ads on Google."
Next, let's get rid of the narrow banner text ad that sits above every Gmail message you open. You've probably blocked it out, but there is an easy way to eliminate it altogether. Click on the gear icon in the upper-right corner and choose Settings. Then click on the Web Clips tab and uncheck the box for "Show my web clips above the Inbox."
Now, as the informative post on WonderHowTo explains, you can also remove any ads that appear as messages in the Promotions tab of your Gmail inbox, but to do so, you have to delete the Promotions tab. In my case, I don't see such ads in my Promotion tab, and deleting it would unleash a wave of messages to my primary inbox that I'd rather keep quarantined in the Promotions tab. If you'd like to get rid of the Promotions tab, go to the Inbox tab in settings and you'll be able to uncheck a box for the Promotions tab.
Alternatively, Chrome users can use the Gmelius extension, which lets you customize what elements show up on Gmail and where.