“[I]n the coming weeks,” Google will show a new blanket setting to “turn off smart features” which will disable features like Smart Compose, Smart Reply, in apps like Gmail; the second half of the same prompt will disable whether additional Google products — like Maps or Assistant, for example — are allowed to be personalized based on data from Gmail, Meet, and Chat. Gizmodo reports: Google writes in its blog post about the new-ish settings that humans are not looking at your emails to enable smart features, and Google ads are “not based on your personal data in Gmail,” something CEO Sundar Pichai has likewise said time and again. Google claims to have stopped that practice in 2017, although the following year the Wall Street Journal reported that third-party app developers had freely perused inboxes with little oversight. (When asked whether this is still a problem, the spokesperson pointed us to Google’s 2018 effort to tighten security.) A Google spokesperson emphasized that the company only uses email contents for security purposes like filtering spam and phishing attempts. These personalization changes aren’t so much about tightening security as they are another informed consent defense which Google can use to repel the current regulatory siege being waged against it by lawmakers. […] Inquiries in the U.S. and EU have found that Google’s privacy settings have historically presented the appearance of privacy, rather than privacy itself. […] So this is nice, and also Google’s announcement reads as a letter to regulators. “This new setting is designed to reduce the work of understanding and managing [a choice over how data is processed], in view of what we’ve learned from user experience research and regulators’ emphasis on comprehensible, actionable user choices over data.”
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