This is no surprise, of course. If anyone wasn’t aware that their mail was being scanned for advertising purposes then you’ve been living under a rock, leading to wonder whether your rock-internet is more reliable than Comcast. It’s not like this has been a hidden thing, Google has been quite open about it. But Google did finally clarify in their terms of service that this was happening.
Our automated systems analyze your content (including e-mails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.
If everyone knew, why update the policy? There’s a court case in the works at the moment over it… but not in regards to scanning by a GMail user. Someone who has sent mail to a GMail user has had the contents of their email scanned… even though they haven’t agreed to the Terms of Service in signing up an account. The link has a tad more info about this.
I’ve talked about this a bit before: no matter how secure your own email is, if you’re sending it to someone else there’s no guarantee it’s secure on their end. There are means of encryption you and your email receiver can use to help security, but most are a pain in the ass and/or unnecessary for mail to your grandma.
On the other hand, it is rather creepy that suddenly Google started showing me scores for White Sox games after I mentioned it on one of my blogs.