Microsoft has launched a flat-out attack against Google with their “Scroogled” campaign, designed to point out what the company calls serious flaws in Google’s privacy policies.
Previously they’ve attacked Google Shopping and now the target is Gmail. Microsoft says it wants to educate Americans about Google’s practice of scanning through the contents of Gmail emails to sell and target ads to users.
As an example Microsoft offered, “If you write a friend to let her know you are separating from your husband, Google sells ads against this information to divorce lawyers, who post ads alongside it.”
In fairness, Microsoft’s Bing does pretty much the same thing when you use the search engine. But the company says emails are personal and using them sell ads is out of bounds.
You can choose to opt out of some ads on Google by going to google.com/ads/preferences. It won’t stop the ads all together or disable other companies’ interest-based ads. Once you clear your browser, you’ll need to opt out again.
Google responded by pointing out that people aren’t actually reading your email, a program is automatically scanning the text for certain keywords.
“Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge. 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. An automated algorithm — similar to that used for features like Priority Inbox or spam filtering — determines which ads are shown.”
While tech companies are very competitive and don’t shy away from comparing products, it’s unusual to see political-campaign style negative advertising like the “Scroogled” campaign. If the effort proves successful for Microsoft, get ready to see a lot more of it.