Design and social research

Design and social research meet to form an intellectual hub at The New School in New York. But the university was not yet top-of-mind for many prospective students, despite having academic credentials which rival the best schools in the world. Further, the New School was not capitalising
on the success of its constituent parts.

Despite Parsons’ status as an elite design school, few can grasp how profound an impact its placement within a full- service university has on its progressive approach. So, when The New School came to us with a mandate to “deliver one university,” we were thrilled at the challenge.

The New School knew that a lot of their prospective students were self-starters, but weren’t always sure which academic path to take. So, we helped those students explore fields of study through a card-based visual browse experience organised around high-level topics, not courses.

With light and fast interactions that allow users to get a quick overview and links to additional information, students get a bird’s eye view of how they might carve their own academic path at The New School.

To tell the story of the university, we crafted a user experience with a strong central narrative and channels that made it easy for visitors to discover its individual schools and programs.

We built a robust content-publishing platform so The New School can feature the groundbreaking research and work done by students, alumni, and faculty. And with a mandate to deliver technology that can be used across other sites in the future, we developed a modular front-end that opens the door for consistent experiences across The New School’s digital platform.

The look and feel of the user interface reflects the values of a university looking not just to expand boundaries, but to redraw them. We brought their progressive ethos to life online with a bold, open and airy system that extends the type-driven visual identity by Paula Scher and the rest of the team from Pentagram.

While invigorating us as designers, the dynamic brand required intense focus to control screens and devices. To solve this, we designed site-wide templates as a foundation for content, then collaborated on page-specific effects that reflected the spirit of the university.



At a time where the majority of web browsing is done on a phone or tablet, performance is critical. Not everybody has the latest device, and each delay and stutter could cost a customer. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to use JavaScript to stop this happening.


Jagged scrolling is a clear sign something is up. In some cases, the browser is being forced to wait because of listeners applied to the page. Events such as ‘wheel’ or ‘touchmove’ are able to cancel scrolling, so the page has to wait
until the event has completed before the default scrolling behaviour can begin. This can cause jerky and inconsistent scrolling, which makes for a poor user experience.

document. addEventListener(‘touchmove’, handler, {passive: true});

To get around this, pass an object as the third parameter when adding an event listener. By marking the event as passive, the browser can assume scrolling will not be afected, so it can start immediately.

This third parameter replaces the ‘useCapture’ option in older browsers, so it is important to use feature detection when making use of this type of listener. To intentionally disable scrolling, applying ‘touch-action: none’ in CSS will help in more browsers.


Events like scrolling and resizing fire as quickly as they can to make sure whatever is listening can stay up to date. If something resource intensive is happening on each event, this can quickly grind a page to a halt.

const resizeDebounce = debounce(() => {
// Code for resize event }, 200);
window. addEventListener(‘resize’, resizeDebounce);

Debouncing is a technique that throttles how often the callback to one of these events is called. The implementation of a debounce function and how often the function gets called will vary by project, but reducing the events to five times a second, for example, will see an instant improvement on the page.


A common use of the scroll event is to detect when an element comes into view on the page. Even with debouncing, calling getBoundingClientRect() requires the browser to reanalyse the layout of the entire page. There is a new browser API called IntersectionObserver, which reports on the visibility of observed elements by calling a function whenever they enter or exit the viewport. For infinite scrolling sites, this can be used as a flag to remove or recycle older views.

IntersectionObserver is available in all the latest browsers except Safari. It’s worth using this API and falling back to older techniques, as the diference is vastly noticeable.


When working with large datasets or processing big files like images, JavaScript can quickly lock up the browser window. All the work is getting performed on a single thread, so if that thread is busy the interface cannot update.

If you know a process is going to take a long time to run, it is a good idea to put it inside a web worker. These are scripts that run on a separate thread, which leaves the user interface running smoothly. Scripts can talk to each other through a special message method. Web workers don’t have access to the DOM and some properties on the window object, so these messages can be used to pass the necessary information.


Use the browser’s tools to find why a page is performing badly

All modern browsers will record a profile of a page. Chrome has a separate profiler for JS, Firefox has a ‘JS flame chart’ under the Performance tab, and Safari records everything in ‘Timelines’.

These can be used to see what’s being called when and why. To test specific issues, start recording, perform the slow action, and stop recording. After a few seconds, the tools will show a chart with details.

3. MAKE SMALL CHANGES AND REPEAT Once you have identified the issue and looked into what might be causing it, make a small change and run the profiler again. By keeping a note of how much improvement each change is making, you can be sure you’re on the right track.
JS can cause issues with page rendering, such as paint thrashing. Make sure these are iterated through as well. They are often highlighted diferently to JS issues.

2. ISOLATE WHAT’S CAUSING THE ISSUE Each browser will display a slightly diferent version of a flame chart. These show small coloured blocks that stack on top of each other. Each block will represent a function call that happened during the recording.

Long blocks are a cause for concern, as these took the longest to run. Hover over or click into each one to see where this code was called and how long each one took.



Essential tips to help make a beautiful and captivating experience

1 Why are you doing it?

Let’s start from the beginning. Everyone’s doing things for a reason. Would you like people to experience what you imagined? Play with it? Maybe surprise them and show them something they’ve never seen before? You just want to try it? There’s no wrong answer, and the reason will shape the result.

2 It should feel good

Whenever someone mentions the ‘look and feel’ of an experience, the look is easy to describe, and in most cases it’s a straightforward plan: make it pretty. The feel is more ephemeral – it’s somewhere between high frame rate (keep 60fps!), fluid animations (a lot of easing, follow rules of physics or break them on purpose) and general consistency of the experience. You’re making a small world, so it has to make sense.

3 Make it interactive

As you progress in creating your experience, you’ll notice it’s actually plenty of space once you have this one extra dimension. Fill it with a lot of different things. Let people look around and discover, let them be curious. And while you’re at it, you’ll see they have amazing ideas.

4 Let people create

Let them build, break, rearrange. Generate something new? It’s an interactive piece – through the interaction, in a way, they’re the makers. And they’re good at it. Let them create, let them save and share. There’s something great when they come back saying “look what I’ve made!”.

5 Work on all the platforms

Make it run fast and fluid – 60fps, all the time. Around 50 per cent of the work is making sure it runs and looks good everywhere. But it’s all worth it: there are a lot of people out there. While you test on diferent devices, you’ll notice they have diferent capabilities too – use them! Some have multi-touch, some have gyroscope, some have microphones. They can all meet in the same space, and they’ll all have diferent superpowers.

6 Work on all the people

Meet up with your least tech-savvy friends, show them what you’ve made, but don’t say anything about it. Let them click around, figure it out. Analytics are good, but seeing someone’s reactions can give you actual insight into what you’ve made, how it makes people feel. And you only have a couple of seconds to get people’s attention – make sure their first action is always ‘correct’.

7 Keep releasing

One of the biggest strengths of releasing projects on the web is the ease of changing and fixing it. You can even release it as experiments first, one by one; as you get better, they’ll form a more and more complete project. And once you’re done, you’ll already have people waiting for it.

The joy of interactive prototyping

Prototyping is a process that has existed with or will react diferently to a proposed piece of

since the inception of ‘product design’. In the world of web and application development, the idea of prototyping is

not new either.
Many developers have created beta releases of

their builds, to sense-check functionality and to help validate the project for additional funding or client sign of. The idea of interactive prototyping, however, is a step even before that, utilising the designs to feign a user experience without a single line of code being written. In the world of rapid and agile development cycles, this has become a necessary step to ensure time is not wasted developing an idea that would never satisfy the end user.

When sending through a set of designs to a client or developer, especially in organisations where the design team is separate from the front-end team, it’s very dificult to work out a flow for a

functionality than expected. Companies spend large amounts of time and money on A/B testing and focus groups to try and optimise their interface based on user and business objectives. None of this is possible with only the feedback of the business, designs and developers – it requires the insight of the end users themselves.

The interactive prototype also becomes a testing ground for all new functionality or changes in approach that will inevitably crop up during the development process. Utilising this design-only prototype can aid in getting approval from the project stakeholders and validation from user groups before reworking code in the development environment. To gain the full benefit of the prototyping process, it needs to be considered a live file throughout the project’s life span, constantly updated with each new phase, alteration and bug fix.

With each of these changes there

user when viewing each screen in
isolation. Historically, web and app the end users is invaluable ” achieve the same goal. Using the

“ Getting the build in the hands of

will be diferent treatments to

developers would rely on
wireframes, design mock-ups and
videos to relay the experience to any stakeholders or or requires numerous taps may on paper seem fine, but created and tested with quick succession. When
team who would need to build the solution. Interactive once actually dropped onto the screen may seem clunky approaching a new implementation, it’s always best to

prototyping tools – now built into many UI design tools or low-cost platforms – utilise the designs and hot spots to allow for the creation of a tappable, swipable or pinchable vision of the proposed user experience. Grabbing a mobile and tapping through the designs or perusing a web design, while clicking away on call to actions, is the easiest way to present a proposed flow in the setting it will actually be used. Not many people would buy a mattress without being able to jump around on it a bit first – this is the digital UI equivalent!

If the client, designer and developer – along with the wider project team – all have visibility of this interactive prototype, it also removes the age-old issue of misinterpretation of flow or expectation gap. Members of the project (both client and internal) are not always able to translate the repercussions of decisions made during the design process, particularly on flow while looking at something as systematic as a wireframe to visualise the flow. An element that according to the wireframe is only accessible by a complicated gesture

or too hidden. This is the point where rework is required to alter an interface element that had already been ‘signed of’, or has been present throughout but had not been fully understood until all members of the team were able to play around with the build in their hands. It’s a lot easier to facilitate this during a design prototype stage than with a beta build.

This ability, for people to get their hands on the experience before development, extends to that of the end users, who can give valuable feedback on the proposed solution. This is the key reason it is so important for web and application developers to go through this process for all technical builds. Getting the build in the hands of the end users is invaluable: it allows for test groups to be put together and validate the approach and idea. Over the many projects that I have been part of at Pocket App, every single one has benefited from the utilisation of interactive prototypes. Even following all the best practices, user research, latest trends and industry experience, there will still be areas of the experience that users will not resonate

try out as many solutions as possible; however, this can be time-consuming to do using development and is not a true representation using just flat designs. This can help try, test and validate the perfect approach from the bank of available ones, rather than just the one we happen to develop.

In summary, embedding prototyping into any developer’s workflow may seem to some as an unnecessary step in the world of rapid development- based prototyping; however, it can reduce rework substantially when dealing with clients, stakeholders and, most importantly, end users. It allows the proposed design and experience to be demonstrated as it was meant to be, in a way that the user can physically navigate and connect with. It could be the diference between when a client or stakeholder works out that they do not agree with the proposed design – this could be either during the early design phase, or many months and cafeine-fuelled coding nights later.

How to implement a scrolling jigsaw effect

Add an effect that animates individual elements in response to the user scrolling the webpage

1.InitiatetheHTMLdocument ThefirststepoftheprojectistoinitiatetheHTML document. This consists of definitions of the HTML document container, which contains a head and body section.Whiletheheadsectionisprimarilyusedto referenceexternalCSSandJavaScriptresources,the body section is used to store the visible HTML content.

<!DOCTYPE html> <html>

<title>Animated Scrolling Shapes</title>

<link rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css” href=”styles.css” />

<script src=”code.js” type=”text/ javascript”></script>

*** STEP 2 HERE </body>


2. Body content
The main content consists of a container that stores the elements that are to be animated. For this example, these are span elements that present individual numbers, with styling being defined later in the CSS. You can change them to another element type such as img elements for your own project.

<article class=”jigsawAnim”> <span>1</span> <span>2</span> <span>3</span> <span>4</span> <span>5</span> <span>6</span> <span>7</span> <span>8</span>


3. JavaScript styling
With the HTML now complete, create a new file called code.js. The first part of this code is responsible for attaching some style properties to each element inside the container defined in step 2. Take note of how this is all executed inside a function applied to a ‘load’ event listener of the window; the code will fail if it executes before the page has fully loaded.

window.addEventListener(“load”,function(){ var cssRef = “.jigsawAnim > *”;
var nodes = document.


for(var i=0; i<nodes.length; i++){ nodes[i] = “0”; nodes[i].setAttribute(“data-speed”,Math.

floor(Math.random()*10)+2); }

*** STEP 4 HERE });

4. Scroll interactions
The explosion e ect occurs in response to the user scrolling the page, hence the requirement to define these visual changes via JavaScript. This step applies a ‘scroll’ event listener to the window, upon which will update the rotation, position and opacity of elements referenced in step 3 with new calculations based on the page window scroll position.

window.addEventListener(“scroll”,functi on(){

var nodes = document. querySelectorAll(cssRef);

for(var i=0; i<nodes.length; i++){

var speed = window.scrollY/ parseInt(nodes[i].getAttribute(“data- speed”));

nodes[i].style.transform = “rotate(“+speed+”deg)”;

nodes[i] = speed+”px”; nodes[i].style.opacity = 1-(speed/100); if(i >= (nodes.length-2)/2)nodes[i].

style.left = speed+”px”; else nodes[i].style.left =

“-“+speed+”px”; }


5. CSS initiation
With the JavaScript code now complete, the next step is to initiate the CSS stylesheet; create a new file called styles.css. The first rule sets the page size to a minimum of four times the height of the browser screen to guarantee scrolling – which is required for the e ect to work.

html,body{ min-height: 400vh;


6. General jigsaw style
The jigsaw consists of two types of element: the parent container and its children. The parent is set with fixed positioning in relation to the browser window now, not the page document. The children use relative positioning,

for(var i=0; i<nodes.length; i++){ nodes[i] = “0”; nodes[i].setAttribute(“data-speed”,Math.

floor(Math.random()*10)+2); }

*** STEP 4 HERE });

4. Scroll interactions
The explosion e ect occurs in response to the user scrolling the page, hence the requirement to define these visual changes via JavaScript. This step applies a ‘scroll’ event listener to the window, upon which will update the rotation, position and opacity of elements referenced in step 3 with new calculations based on the page window scroll position.

window.addEventListener(“scroll”,functi on(){

var nodes = document. querySelectorAll(cssRef);

for(var i=0; i<nodes.length; i++){

var speed = window.scrollY/ parseInt(nodes[i].getAttribute(“data- speed”));

nodes[i].style.transform = “rotate(“+speed+”deg)”;

nodes[i] = speed+”px”; nodes[i].style.opacity = 1-(speed/100); if(i >= (nodes.length-2)/2)nodes[i].

style.left = speed+”px”; else nodes[i].style.left =

“-“+speed+”px”; }


5. CSS initiation
With the JavaScript code now complete, the next step is to initiate the CSS stylesheet; create a new file called styles.css. The first rule sets the page size to a minimum of four times the height of the browser screen to guarantee scrolling – which is required for the e ect to work.

html,body{ min-height: 400vh;


6. General jigsaw style
The jigsaw consists of two types of element: the parent container and its children. The parent is set with fixed positioning in relation to the browser window now, not the page document. The children use relative positioning,

Why sites should go offline to save the web

Why sites should go offline to save the web

You can’t knock Donald Trump’s record. He promised to unite America, and on 12 July he will have succeeded. Because on that day, internet companies as diverse as straight-laced Amazon and America’s biggest porn site will join forces (or will have joined, depending on when you’re reading this) to protest against the President’s attack on net neutrality.
And those two companies aren’t easy bedfellows.

Net neutrality, as David Crookes explains on page 36 of this issue, is the well-established principle of treating all internet traffic equally. It means your broadband provider will give the same priority to traffic from your website as it would Facebook’s or YouTube’s or anyone else’s.

President Trump’s advisors are not keen on this legislation, most likely because it’s not got enough dollar signs in it. Instead, they’re siding with America’s telecoms providers, who want the option to charge Netflix and YouTube – and you and me – to put their traffic in the ‘fast lane’. They may even reserve the right to block websites altogether. So if, let’s say, paid an American provider $5m, it could slow or bar access to the websites of other hotel chains. Or even political rivals.

Scrapping net neutrality plays straight into the hands of the big boys. If, 10-15 years ago, internet providers were charging companies to make their content run smoothly over their networks, there would be no YouTube, no Netflix and no Spotify, because these startup companies wouldn’t have been able to afford the fees. It’s expensive enough to run servers to reach millions of people, let alone pay the broadband providers to make sure that content gets through. As a group of 800 tech startups wrote in an open letter to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this year: “Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favour their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice.”

This makes it all the more staggering that companies such as Amazon and Netflix are leading the protests, because if they were acting entirely in their own interest, they could wipe out competition in a heartbeat. Both companies are rolling in cash and can afford life in the fast lane. They could consign rival video services to ‘buffering’ screens, making their own services as untouchable as BBC1 and ITV were on British television a generation ago. There would literally be no competition.

Instead, they’ve done the decent thing and joined dozens of other companies in protesting against the threat to net neutrality. At the time of writing, it wasn’t clear what form the protest would take, but I know what
I’d love them to do: switch their sites off.

Do it for an hour, for an evening, or ideally for the whole day – but make everyone realise what the net would be like if some of the massive sites we rely on simply weren’t there.

Have they got the guts to do it? I’m not sure, but Donald Trump has certainly got the nerve to push his legislation through. The cost of scrapping net neutrality will be far greater than a few hours offline.

Our guide to net neutrality

Our guide to net neutrality

Web giants including Amazon and Netflix are fighting to save the web from political and corporate interference.

What is it?

Net neutrality is the concept that all online traffic should be treated equally whether it’s an email, a social-media post, a voice call, a shopping purchase or
a YouTube video. It effectively means web access without restriction and discrimination, and it ensures that the internet remains free and open – not only by preventing broadband providers from blocking content but by stopping companies paying more to benefit from faster data delivery. It is currently under threat in the US and some of the biggest names in tech are trying to save it.

Does the UK have net neutrality?

Yes, at the moment. For just over a year, the EU has banned the blocking, throttling and discrimination of online content, applications and services. This means that ISPs are not allowed to restrict or make it difficult to access

a service, and it prevents them from slowing down certain traffic to the detriment of any other. They are also prevented from prioritising, for example, Netflix over BBC iPlayer or My5, which means that one piece of data can’t overtake another piece of data to get to its destination more quickly.

But are there exceptions?

There certainly are. When net neutrality was enshrined in EU law last April, it included several exceptions. For example, ISPs are able to manage traffic if they are legally obliged to, so if a court orders that certain content has to be blocked, then that must be acted on. Internet providers can also interfere with the flow of data if it makes the network more secure or to avoid congestion at specific times. What they can’t do, however, is slow down Spotify, for instance, while allowing Apple Music to continue unaffected, because equivalent categories of traffic – in this case, music streaming – must be treated equally.

Does the US have net neutrality laws, too?

Yes, it does. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in favour of net neutrality, changing the classification of a broadband provider from “information provider” to “common carrier” (which means it carries traffic without discrimination and interference). The new Open Internet rules treat the internet as a public utility and, as in the EU, ISPs are prevented from throttling or blocking content online. But the situation is changing and the FCC is already looking to reverse the rules.

What would scrapping net neutrality achieve?

It would allow network owners to produce ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ lanes on the internet. By paying extra to ISPs, major services such as Google, Facebook and Amazon would be able to move around the internet faster than those services that pay less or nothing at all.

So why doesn’t the FCC want net neutrality?

Republican Ajit Pai, who was named Chairman of the FCC by President Donald Trump, believes enforcing net neutrality has slowed consumer access to faster broadband connections and reduced investment in network expansion. He is backed by US cable companies who want the freedom to grant preferential treatment to selected content.

They say innovation has been stifled and that the amount of money put into broadband has fallen by as much as 3%.

Pai favours “voluntary” compliance with the net-neutrality rules that state there should be no discrimination, blocking or paid prioritisation. This would leave ISPs that don’t want to volunteer for compliance free to cash in on deals with services willing to pay for prioritised traffic. US networks Comcast and Verizon have said they need to charge some companies more to help tackle congested traffic.

What do the supporters of net neutrality say about this?

As you’d expect, they are up in arms, fearing that ISPs will try to interfere in content delivery. A record four million public comments were posted ahead
of the introduction of the Open Internet rules and its backers are not going down without a fight. They want the same speeds for all data and they want all legal content treated equally. Certainly, they are opposed to any moves that would allow ISPs to set up fast lanes that give paying content providers better speeds and prioritisation. They argue that rolling back the Open Internet rules impedes innovation and that ISPs rather than users will end up determining which companies win and lose. It’s rather telling that more than 800 internet-based startups have signed an open letter against the move.

But what are the big tech companies doing about it?

Some of the internet’s largest companies made 12 July their ‘Day of Action’ protest. Those involved included Amazon, Kickstarter, Reddit, GitHub, Etsy, Mozilla, Netflix, BitTorrent and Vimeo together with the American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association Center for Media Justice, Demand Progress, MoveOn, Greenpeace and Organizing For Action. It’s not surprising to see such opposition given the level of protests against similarly restrictive bills five years ago. Back then, more than 50,000 websites blacked out their homepages for a period of 12 hours.

Will net neutrality win again?

It’s hard to tell because Pai appears determined to see it overturned (we’d rather see an overturned pie). In May, the FCC voted two to one in favour of an order to eliminate net-neutrality rules, but it still has to go through the current period of comment and a final vote in a month or two. A good number of senators are also against the repealing of net-neutrality rules and have signed an open letter published on TechCrunch ( “President Trump’s FCC is threatening to take away your ability to have free and open use of the internet,” they wrote.

Will Brexit affect net neutrality in the UK?

The current plan for Brexit is that the Great Repeal Bill will repatriate EU law into British law when we leave the European Union. But that doesn’t prevent laws from being repealed later. Ofcom

is a member of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (Berec), which oversees the net-neutrality rules for the EU.

It could decide to set out its own guidelines if it ceases to be a member. However, that would mean companies that operate in both the EU and UK markets would face different rules, which could prove confusing.

Google tweaks testing tool

Google tweaks testing tool

Google tweaks testing tool

Google has updated its mobile speed testing tool (, which times how long your site takes to download on phones and tablets, and offers advice based on its results. The new version estimates the number of mobile visitors you may be losing (apparently, mobile users only wait seven seconds for a website to appear) and how your speed compares to other sites offering similar content. Speed isn’t everything but if you stay on top of your site’s download speed, you won’t lose potential visitors unnecessarily.

Which WordPress to choose?

If you want to start a new website, most people will recommend you use WordPress, but there are two versions so which do you choose? is the one you have to install on a server via a paid-for web host, though most now offer a one-click installation service or do it for you. is hosted by WordPress, so all you need to do is make an account. The hosted ‘.org’ version is a lot more flexible and customisable than the ‘.com’ version, but if you’re still not sure, WPBeginner has a very useful breakdown of the differences at

Google fined €2.4bn by EU watchdog

How to strip back SEO to boost your rankings

What happened?

The European Commission has fined Google ¤2.4bn (£2.1bn) for abusing its search dominance to disadvantage online shopping rivals. The complainants in the long-running case allege that Google promoted its own shopping services above independent alternatives, hitting their traffic by 85% in the UK. “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” said EC competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager. “It denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.”

Although the fine is a record from the EC for ‘antitrust’ issues, it amounts to just 2.5% of the web giant’s annual revenue, and Google could have been hit with a punishment of up to 10%.

The fine is based on Google’s comparison shopping revenue from
13 countries, and the company could be liable for further fines of ¤10.6m (£9.3m) a day if it doesn’t resolve the situation within 90 days. Google has denied the EC’s findings and says it is reviewing the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

How will it affect you?

If Google doesn’t appeal against the decision, the search results you see when shopping online will change. At the moment, if you search for a specific product, you’re likely to see a Google carousel of different online stores. That’s likely to disappear in favour of other shopping options, to appease European regulators.

This isn’t the only case before the EC. Google also faces an investigation into claims that its AdSense advertising products limit consumer choice, while a third case involves the inclusion of Google services such as search in Android, which the EC says is unfair.

What do we think?

This long-running case may not yet be over, depending on whether Google decides to fight back with an appeal, but it’s safe to say that Vestager isn’t winning any fans in Silicon Valley. She’s already been accused of anti-American sentiment for targeting corporate dominance, but European consumers should applaud her. Vestager is willing to stand up to the web giants in a way we haven’t seen before in the name of consumer rights rather than corporate cash or power. Tech firms, wherever they’re from, shouldn’t be allowed to ride roughshod over local laws, and it’s good to have at least one regulator watching closely to ensure they don’t.

We’ll take a closer look at the darker, greedier side of Google in next issue’s cover feature, and will be recommending products and services you can use instead.

Google finally stops scanning your emails

What happened?

Google will stop reading your messages in Gmail to personalise its advertising, the company has confirmed. Previously, Google analysed the content of emails sent and received for behavioural advertising purposes – which is why a message about a holiday or wedding can suddenly spark a slew of very specific ads.

This change in policy is believed to be an attempt to appease corporate customers. Gmail is free for individuals, but companies pay for the webmail service as part of Google’s cloud-based collection of productivity tools, G Suite. Messages sent in corporate Gmail aren’t scanned for advertising, but some companies believed differently and weren’t happy about it. To avoid such confusion, Google has dropped email scanning for everyone.

How will it affect you?

If you’re a Gmail user, Google will not look at the content of your emails – you may be alarmed to learn that it had that power previously. However, that doesn’t mean behavioural advertising is being ditched, because Google will use personalisation data across its other services, based on your account settings.

If you want to turn off behavioural advertising, go to My Account (myaccount and under ‘Personal info & privacy’, click Ads Settings. You can turn off advertising personalisation entirely, or select topics you’d like to see or prefer to avoid – and see Google’s guess at your gender and age, which is sometimes amusingly incorrect.

What do we think?

We’re amazed that the scanning of emails for advertising purposes has lasted as long as it has – if such a system was rolled out now, there’d be uproar! We’d either grown accustomed to the corporate giant reading our messages or failed to realise it was doing so. Admittedly, “read” only means a machine looking for keywords to serve ads, but it just shows how easy it is to give up our right to privacy. Hopefully, we won’t give in so easily next time.