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Scroogled: Microsoft goes after Gmail privacy

Scroogled ads hitting the airwaves again, this time taking on Gmail and how they generate ads based on words used in emails, which Microsoft asserts is a violation of privacy.



Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign is back

Microsoft launched a web and television ad campaign and accompanying Scroogled website, criticizing updates made last fall to Google Shopping which began features paid results, and heated up the politics behind the pay-to-play versus organic search results.

The most recent campaign videos tell consumers, “email between a husband and wife or two best friends should be completely personal,” but attacks Gmail for inserting ads on top of and on the side of emails based on the words used in emails. “Gmail crosses the line and goes through every word in every email to and from everyone.”

Microsoft states that there is no opt-out for these ads, and while mainstream users may not be aware, Google Apps users (which is $50 per year) can disable ads. Comparing the two, Outlook is a paid product and Gmail is free, which Google has said repeatedly over time is how the service remains free.

Regardless, Gmail does technically read all messages, and in some cases, as Microsoft points out, they get it wrong. The new Scroogled ad highlights an example of an email about having to put a family’s beloved pet down, but the surrounding ad offers a free pet coupon. Oops. Microsoft is using the campaign to tell mainstream users that they respect privacy.

Consumers disapprove of practices

Microsoft surveyed 1,006 American adults, resulting in strong disapproval of the practice of reading emails to generate surrounding ads.

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Fully 70 percent of Americans didn’t believe or didn’t know whether any major email service provider scanned the content of personal emails in order to target ads, and 83 percent say it is an invasion of privacy.

The practice is disapproved of by 88 percent of respondents, 52 percent saying they disapprove strongly, and 88 percent of email users say that email service providers should allow users to “opt-out” if they prefer that the content of their emails not be scanned in order to target ad.

Furthering Microsoft’s point, 89 percent of respondents say that email service providers should not be allowed to scan the content of personal emails in order to target ads.

Although Gmail has been around for nearly a decade, Microsoft is getting aggressive with their marketing, taking on Google directly as understanding of technology is no longer a foreign language as the average person can understand the basic concepts being attacked in “Scroogled” ads.

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Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.



  1. DavidB23

    February 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Dear Microsoft; Heres an idea for you: Make a product people actually want, then you dont need to appear so desperate Microsoft Mail, or hotmail, or Outlook mail (whatever they have decided to call it this week) has ads as well. Microsoft scans your mail as well; they just claim its for spam protection (which doesnt work nearly as well as Gmails.)

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