Turn Off Gmail’s ‘Smart’ Features to Avoid Tracking

Turn Off Gmail’s ‘Smart’ Features to Avoid Tracking

Google collects data on everything you do while using its products and services. Sometimes this data is sold to advertisers; sometimes it’s used to make it easier to use Google’s products.

For example, Google uses data from Gmail, Chat, and Meet to make the entire Google user experience more convenient, like how it’ll learn how you type and suggest automated message replies that (hopefully) sound natural.

However, some people don’t want their data tracked and stored, period, no matter what conveniences it brings. While there are already ways to change Gmail’s data collection behaviour — more on that in a second — it will soon be easier to opt-out out of Google’s tracking thanks to two new Gmail settings rolling out in the coming weeks.

First, users will now have the option to disable Gmail’s “Smart features” like Smart Compose, Smart Reply, and more. While these are handy, Google has to root through your Gmail, Meet, and Chat data for them to work.

Turn Off Gmail’s ‘Smart’ Features to Avoid Tracking

The other setting lets users prevent Gmail, Chat, and Meet data from being used in other Google apps. Just like disabling smart features, turning off personalisation removes certain conveniences like content suggestions in Google search, restaurant recommendations in Google Maps, or automated bill pay reminders from Google Assistant. You might lose a bit of helpfulness, but you’ll at least keep Google out of your inbox a bit more.

Turn off Gmail’s Smart features and personalisation options in the settings menu

These new permissions will appear as automated prompts for all Gmail users in the coming weeks. That said, if you’d rather not wait, you can change (some) of your Gmail data preferences in Gmail’s settings right now. Pull up Gmail, and then visit Settings > General to turn off the following options:

  • Smart compose

  • Smart compose personalisation

  • Nudges

  • Smart reply

Screenshot: Brendan Hesse
Screenshot: Brendan Hesse

Next, go to Settings > Inbox. Deselect all inbox categories and turn off “Importance Markers.”

You can change how your other Gmail data is used by going to Settings > Accounts and Import > Other Google Account settings.

Don’t worry if you didn’t know these features collect your data; it’s not mentioned anywhere in Gmail’s settings. Thankfully, the new user options are much clearer about how Smart features work and how Google uses the data it has collected.


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