Google Updates Gmail with More User Snooping

| Analysis

Yeah, this.Google has updated their Gmail app to support “single sign-on,” so that being logged in to the Gmail app will also log you in to Google Maps, Google Drive, YouTube, and Chrome. This sounds convenient, but a closer look [via The Loop] at what’s happening might make some people reconsider.

It sounds great to not have to sign in to all those apps individually, sure. But why would Google do something that makes things better for users? Because it makes things even better for Google. As a Google user, you aren’t paying for things like Gmail or YouTube. Remember (say it with me), if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product.

Google’s bread and butter is scooping up all that data about little old you and your surfing habits and using that to sell ads to all those places. That’s why a couple of Google searches give you the same sidebar ads on every website for months.

On your mobile devices, all those things are separate, so if you saw an ad at the start of a YouTube video on your iPad, and researched it later on your phone or computer, Google has no way of tracking that so they can show advertisers which ads are effective. Or at least, they didn’t until this update.

I’ve updated the apps, but I don’t use YouTube on my phone that much so when I launched it, I was asked what I which account to use and managed to skip having to sign in at all. Here's what that looked like:

Welcome Back

First launch of YouTube on iOS. Select another account.


Hooray! Use YouTube without a Google Account!

Successfully signed out!

As it happens, this is only a concern for those running iOS 7, which happens to be about 80-90%, depending who you ask. Since Google mentions that this works using background app refresh—one of the new “conveniences” of iOS 7—there’s a good chance a lot of people won’t notice the difference because they already have it enabled.

Right now I can’t find a way to “officially” opt out of this aside from the YouTube app, but I do have app refresh disabled and don’t use many Google apps, so I think I’m OK for now, but I’ll continue to review and if I find out differently, expect more info here on TMO.

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If I rolled my eyes every time Google did something like this I would have sprained them permanently by now. I get what they're doing but it's all wrapped up in user-friendly sounding language, but it doesn't hold up if you look closer. "Let us take care of all that knees bent running about logging in behavior for you!" is actually code for "We sell a ton of ads that aren't effective if we don't know whose eyeballs are attached to them. Hook an advertiser up, yo!"

This time there's no clear opt-out, or way around it that I can find. You can disable background app refresh and deal with inconvenience, but...oh I see what you did there, Google. I don't like it, but I see it.

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Anthony Triano

I would really appreciate an article on how to move your email away from Google or other company.  Sort of a step by step on the best practices to do so.  I use my gmail account a lot and would love to redirect everything, to cut gmail out completely.

Lee Dronick

Anthny, get an iCloud account.


Good advice Lee. But be sure not to give much info to Google if you decide to keep a gmail address.


For searches, I use now. They are not US based, so they don’t have to submit to the US Govt requests, but use the google engine and do not store your IP address when you search.

Read about them first, if you like:

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