How To

how much you’re giving away for a free email account


Sometimes a service will perform useful tasks such as extrapolating booked flights from your inbox and offering to add them to your calendar. While this is convenient, it may also feel uncomfortable to know your personal messages are being analyzed.

Your data can be used to target you with ads. It can be shared with other companies or even sold. Your browsing habits can track you across websites as companies build a profile of you.

There is a way to view at least some of the data your email provider shares and change the settings to your liking. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger email services.


Google uses Gmail to monitor your purchases, trips, bills and more, which can be viewed here. While Google no longer directly hits you with ads, it does send targeted ads to your inbox.

To see what information Google has on you, first sign in to your account. Go to Data & personalization and click on the Things you can create and do panel to see your services and a summary of your data.

You can go to the Take the Privacy Checkup panel to personalize settings for your most-used Google services. Go to Activity Controls to toggle on or off your web activity, location history, YouTube history and ad personalization.

Within Gmail itself, go to Settings > General and scroll down to Smart features and personalization and Smart features and personalization in other Google products. Toggle these off if you want Google to stop tracking your packages, trips, events, restaurant reservations, etc.

Yahoo Mail

According to Yahoo parent company Verizon’s privacy policy, Yahoo Mail shares your keywords, packages and product identification numbers with third parties “in order to enhance your user experience and personalize your ads and content.”

Related: The best browsers for privacy at a glance

Verizon’s Privacy Dashboard page lets you view how some of its brands use your information. Log in and select Yahoo to get a summary of the data the service is using. The Your Privacy Controls section of the dashboard lets you control what you want to share, such as personalized advertising, location and search history. You can also access the dashboard through your Yahoo Mail settings.


Microsoft recently announced that data collection would fall under two categories: Required or Optional. This applies to various programs under the Office banner, including the Outlook email service. Required data keeps things streamlined and secure, while the Optional stuff is meant to give you a better overall experience.

You can download the Diagnostic Data Viewer to see what data is being sent to Microsoft. Within any Office application, go to File > Options > Trust Center > Trust Center Settings > Privacy Options > Privacy Settings to set what you’d like Office to share.

There’s no such thing as complete privacy

You can follow the above steps to reduce the amount of data you share through your email service. You will not be completely safe from data collection, however. Microsoft, Google and Verizon all clearly state that some of your information is essential. Whether you buy that or not, you’re stuck with it as long as you use these programs. Tap or click here for some tips on securing your PC.

So, what alternatives are there? Kim recommends getting away from Big Tech altogether when it comes to your inbox.


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