Microsoft launches campaign targeting Gmail's privacy policies

Microsoft has launched a campaign against Google attacking Gmail’s privacy policies while promoting its own webmail program, Outlook.com.

"Think Google respects your privacy?" Microsoft asks at Scroogled.com, a website it uses to target Google. "Think again."

"Google goes through every Gmail that’s sent or received, looking for keywords so they can target Gmail users with paid ads," it continues. "And there’s no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy."

"Outlook.com is different – we don’t go through your email to sell ads," it adds.

Microsoft further hammers away at Gmail’s privacy in a video post. "Can you spot what Google goes through in this Gmail?" asks an announcer on the video. "It's easy. They go through everything."

A petitionhas also been posted to pressure Google to stop going through personal emails to sell ads. More than 450 people had signed the petition as of Thursday morning.

In addition to the new ad campaign, Microsoft released a survey it commissioned from Roper on email privacy that found that:

  • More than half (52 percent) of the 1,006 Internet and email users participating in the survey said they did not know of any email service provider scanning email content for the purpose of crafting targeted ads
  • When asked whether they disapproved of an email service provider scanning the content of personal emails to target advertising at them, a large majority (88 percent) of the respondents disapproved of the practice
  • Some 83 percent of the survey sample felt that scanning email content for targeted advertising purposes was an invasion of their privacy
  • The Internet and email users also overwhelmingly favored barring the scanning of personal email (89 percent) to create targeted ads
  • Some 80 percent of the respondents supported email providers allowing consumers to opt out of having their personal email scanned for targeted advertising purposes

Microsoft-sponsored Don't Get Scroogled activities will appear online and offline, demonstrating why consumers should be concerned, and helping them take action, Microsoft said. "This campaign is as much about protecting Outlook.com users from Gmail as it is about making sure Gmail users know what Google's doing," Stefan Weitz, senior director of online services at Microsoft, said in a statement.

In a statement released Wednesday, Google explained that any advertising generated from Gmail content is totally automated so there are no peeping Toms reading anyone's personal messages.

"Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge," it stated. "We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant."

"No humans read your email or Google account information in order to show you advertisements or related information," it added.

This latest attack on Google follows a negative campaign directed at Google Shopping in November through Scroogled. That campaign, calculated to boost the popularity of Microsoft's search engine, Bing, charged Google with selling Google Shopping searches and displaying the results of those searches based on those sales and not relevance.

The problem with the kind of negative strategy Microsoft has decided to adopt in its Scroogled campaign is that the merits of its messages gets lost in its self-serving motives to promote its products.

Do we want an email provider scanning our email so they can target advertising at us? Many of us would say, no. Do we want search results returned to us that are based on relevance and not payola? Few would answer "no" to that. But in raising those issues and then leveraging them to pitch products, Microsoft is acting no better than the boogeyman it seeks to bash.

Material from The IDG News Service was included in this report.

Subscribe to the Best of TechHive Newsletter

Comments