Microsoft ads attack Google over privacy

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Microsoft has launched an aggressive PR campaign against Google, claiming users are being 'scroogled' by its privacy practices.

It's encouraging users to abandon Gmail and move to Outlook instead: "to stop Google going through your emails to sell ads". Microsoft says that seven out of ten users are unaware that Google scans the content of emails in order to deliver targeted ads.

"Emails are personal — and people feel that reading through their emails to sell ads is out of bounds," says Stefan Weitz , senior director of Online Services at Microsoft.

"We honor the privacy of our Outlook.com users, and we are concerned that Google violates that privacy every time an Outlook.com user exchanges messages with someone on Gmail. 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."

From today, TV, print and online ads will start appearing, showing the word 'scroogled' in the colors of Google's famous logo. The company's also launched a Facebook page - although this doesn't seem to have tapped into any enormous level of outrage as yet, boasting only 121 Likes and three posts, one of which is critical of Microsoft itself.

The Scroogled website gives several expamples of targeted advertising, from the divorcing woman targeted with ads for lawyers to the chemotherapy patient offered hair loss products. By contrast, Outlook, says Microsoft, doesn't snoop.

"Outlook.com only scans the contents of your email to help protect you and display, categorize, and sort your mail appropriately," it says.

"Just like the postal service sorts and scans mail and packages for dangerous explosives and biohazards, Outlook.com scans your mail to help prevent spam, gray mail, phishing scams, viruses, malware, and other dangers and annoyances."

The big surprise about the campaign must surely be Microsoft's claim that only 30 percent of Google users are aware that the content of emails is used to target ads. The rest must either be extremely unobservant, or else constantly amazed that the ads they're served so accurately predict their needs.