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How to stop Google from spying on your Gmail in a few easy steps

Published Jul 2nd, 2021 9:24AM EDT
Email Tracking Gmail
Image: Shinonome Production/Adobe

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Gmail is a great email service, but email tracking is something that might naturally bother some users. If you’ve used Gmail recently at all, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that the service has several features designed to make the email experience a bit smoother. One such feature is called Smart Reply, and it essentially provides users with phrase suggestions for quick replies. The feature works by scanning your messages and handing back what it thinks are appropriate replies. For example, imagine your boss emails you that a deadline has been pushed back. Smart Reply gives you an option to select a button that reads, “No worries! Thanks for the update.”

This Gmail email tracking feature is very convenient and widely used. In fact, Google in 2017 said that 12% of replies on Inbox by Gmail were smart replies. Though many people find the feature useful, others might find it a bit offputting. Even though it’s an algorithm scanning your email and not a person, it’s understandable that some users might be uncomfortable with the very idea.

How to stop Gmail tracking

If you want to turn off smart replies and prevent Gmail email tracking, start by logging into your Gmail account on your computer. Next, click the Settings icon (which should be a gear) in the upper right-hand corner. Now select the “See all settings” option which appears right at the top. Scroll down a bit and toggle off the “Smart Reply” option.

Similar to Smart Replies, Smart Compose is a feature that learns your writing style and suggests sentences before you complete them. For example, if you write “Haven’t seen” into an email, you might see a suggestion that reads “Haven’t seen you in a while.” Or, if you write “I’ll be there!” Gmail might suggest “I’ll be there! Looking forward to seeing everyone.” If you see a suggestion you like, just hit the “tab” button and it will fill it in for you.

Like Smart Replies, Smart Compose is helpful and efficient. But again, if the notion of Gmail email tracking bothers you, it’s easy to shut it off.

Turning off Smart Compose is just as easy as turning off Smart Replies. The process is similar as well. Go to Settings and select “See all settings.” Scroll down to the section that says “Smart Compose personalization.”  Next, toggle the setting off. And just like that, you’ve rid yourself of this Gmail email tracking feature.

There is another Gmail feature called Nudges you might also want to turn off if you don’t like the idea of Google’s algorithm scanning your email. Nudges basically suggest emails you might want to reply to or follow up on. If Gmail thinks you need to reply to an email, the original will appear at the top of your inbox. Similarly, sent emails Gmail thinks you should follow up on will also appear at the top of your inbox.

To turn Nudges off, go to Settings, select “See all settings,” and scroll down until you see Nudges. Toggle both Nudge features off and you’ll be good to go. And just like that, you’ll be free of Gmail email tracking.

One more Gmail trick you should know

As you’ve seen, Gmail is extremely customizable and filled with many powerful features. One trick worth mentioning makes it easy for users to figure out who is sharing their personal data with third parties. You can read all about it over here.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.

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