Scroogled?: Microsoft’s Attack Campaign on Gmail

Microsoft has created a new ad campaign attacking Gmail. And for good reason: Gmail has 425 million active users as of June 2012. As of November 2012, the new Outlook has only 25 million users.  Microsoft’s campaign is striking on the fact that Gmail “scans emails” in order to create personalized advertisements for users.  Microsoft claims that Outlook does not similarly scan through emails in order to create advertisements (it does, however, scan through emails to separate the mail into spam, viruses, and other dangers).

The truth? Gmail does scan through emails in order to create personalized ads, but no humans or Google employees ever read through your emails according to Google. It stresses the fact that these advertisements are necessary in order to keep the email service free.

In an effort to capture some Gmail users, Microsoft has tried (and failed) to get the FTC to sue Google for violations of antitrust. Microsoft is now following up trying to get Gmail users to switch to Outlook by accusing Google of violating privacy rights that it seems consumers care about.

Are Google’s actions legal? When you have a Gmail account, you agree to Google’s privacy policy. It states: “Google also uses this scanning technology to deliver targeted text ads and other related information. This is completely automated and involves no humans.” However, Google has been sued multiple times by non-Gmail users (who have obviously not agreed to the privacy policy) because their emails are also scanned when they send emails to Gmail accounts.  No cases have gone to trial yet, but because no one receives the content of any emails sent through Gmail except the intended recipient, Gmail is likely not breaking any laws by conducting an automated scanning of emails for advertisement purposes. Regardless, it is smart of Microsoft to recognize that people are upset with these alleged violations of privacy, and its new advertisements and commercials use this to Outlook’s advantage.

There’s what I call the creepy line, and the Google policy about a lot of these things is to get right up to the creepy line, but not cross it.” -Eric Schmidt, Google Executive Chairman.

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