The ad campaign is designed to promote Microsoft’s own Outlook.com web-based email service, a direct competitor to Google’s Gmail.
The purpose of the campaign, according to the software giant, is to “educate consumers that Google goes through their personal emails to sell ads”. Don’t Get Scroogled by Gmail is aimed at American Gmail users and is supported by a GfK Roper study (commissioned by Microsoft) that found “70 percent of consumers don’t know that major email providers routinely engage in the practice of reading through their personal email to sell ads,” with a vast majority of people, 88 percent, disapproving of this practice once the information was brought to their attention.
Microsoft’s senior director of Online Services says that: “Emails are personal — and people feel that reading through their emails to sell ads is out of bounds. 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.”
Well, a harsh accusation to be sure! But is it true? The answer is yes…and no.
While technically Microsoft is telling the truth, they are definitely being extremely loose with the word “read.” Nobody from Google (or Yahoo or Zoho or any of the other webmail services) is “reading” users’ emails. As Google explains on its website, the company “scans the text of [incoming and outgoing] messages in order to filter spam and detect viruses, just as all major webmail services do. Google also uses this scanning technology to deliver targeted text ads and other related information. This is completely automated and involves no humans.” So, the same technology that keeps out spam and viruses is also used to sell Pampers ads regarding, say, an email conversation about a friend’s new baby.
What do you think? Are you planning on switching to Outlook.com or will you be sticking with Google?