June 3, 2023

Gmail users are mad about sponsored ads they say are now appearing in the middle of their inboxes, versus at the very top where they can more easily be distinguished from genuine emails.

Gmail has long selected ads it identifies as relevant to account holders based on their browsing activity, automatically displaying them in users’ inboxes while they are signed into Google. But now, instead of appearing in users’ inboxes under the free email service’s “Promotions” and “Social” tabs, the ads are popping up in between non-sponsored emails — and people who use Gmail are not happy about it. 

Users on Twitter complained that the placement of the ads makes it harder to sort through one’s email and keep inboxes clean. 

“As a person who works very hard to keep my email in check, I am absolutely incensed that Gmail is just putting random ads in my inbox now???” tweeted one  user who shared an image of her inbox.

In the photo, emails labeled as ads are intermixed with promotional emails from businesses that she said she likes receiving. About 3 out of 16 emails in her inbox is an ad, the image shows. 

Another Twitter user called the new arrangement “annoying” and asked if the change was “a test” or something permanent.

“Gmail Ads are becoming annoying with ads in the in-between e-mail messages now. Is this a test or a gradual rollout?” he tweeted. He also asked folks on social media to recommend alternative email services.

“That doesn’t sound good”

After one user tweeted “Hey@gmail! Adding an ad into the MIDDLE of my email inbox is NOT COOL,” Google’s official account responded to the criticism, but did not provide a direct explanation for the new ad placements.

“That doesn’t sound good,” the company replied in part, directing the Twitter user to info on its support site on how Gmail ads work. The article explains that Google places “useful and relevant ads” in users’ inboxes in a “fully automated” manner. It does not address the positioning of ads. 

Google did not immediately reply to CBS MoneyWatch’s request for comment. 

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