Over 40 percent of Britons who use webmail are unaware that a number of free email providers, including Google's Gmail, scan their private emails for keywords that are then linked to targeted advertising, says free email provider GMX.
The Attitudes to Email study revealed that a further 40 percent of free email users were concerned by the practice while 33 percent want to be able to opt out of the process.
"It is understandable that many Britons are wary about their private emails being scanned for advertising reasons. It is certainly important that every user is at least informed if this is done by their email service," said Eva Heil, managing director of GMX.
The research also identified that on average web users in the UK have two separate free personal email accounts that they check at least once a day. According to GMX, most free email users feel scanning of emails is the 'price' they pay for using a free service.
Most users only realise that their personal emails are being used in this way after noticing strangely optimised ads around their Inbox. British consumers should bear in mind that they have a choice of free email services that don't do this. If they are uncomfortable with the practice, they should vote with their feet, added Heil.