Software giant Microsoft has grilled Google in its latest Scroogled campaign over allegations that Gmail users have been long victims of a privacy intrusion into their personal emails.
The “Don’t Get Scroogled by Gmail“campaign was launched this week to educate Gmail users about Google’s alleged practice of scanning through the contents of Gmail emails sent and received from another Gmail account or even other email service providers, all for the purpose of selling and targeting ads.
The campaign, which also serves as a petition, has gone online on the heels of the update that Google has brought to its privacy guide and tips this week in celebration of the Safer Internet Day. Dubbed as Good to Know, the consumer education campaign focuses on safer web browsing. With the update, Google adds more tips and advice to help users protect themselves and their family from identity theft and online fraud.
However, the search giant seems to have withdrawn what it has started campaigning for.
Microsoft recently commissioned GfK Roper, a German market research firm, to conduct an email privacy study in America. The poll found that 70 percent of consumers lack awareness that major email service providers routinely comb through their personal email to sell ads, which 88 percent of informed respondents strongly disapprove of. Microsoft describes the ad targeting practice of Google as “unacceptable,” otherwise urging users to shift to Outlook.com, a newly launched product on top of Live.com and Hotmail.com email services that the company touts as free from spies.
To begin with, the GfK study might not have been needed at all if only to show such a huge lack of education among Gmail users: They themselves could already notice ads alongside their emails that pretty much relate to what they are reading. You might wonder how the search giant, which largely relies on advertising for profit, uses personal emails to sell and target ads. Watch the video below:
You’ve heard it right, there’s no way you can opt out of Google’s scan so the ads would stop from appearing beside your email. As we speak, Google is facing class action suits over illegal interception under wiretapping laws in the United States. But it would be an uphill battle, a David-versus-Goliath epic story, like colliding against a juggernaut. In which case, the only viable option left is to sign the Scroogled petition to get the message across to Google that we want to keep our privacy, well, private, that we detest eavesdroppers, that we don’t welcome its ad targeting strategy.
Stefan Weitz, senior director of Online Services at Microsoft, puts it in a milder way:
“Emails are personal – and people feel that reading through their emails to sell ads is out of bounds.”
Weitz laments that even Outlook.com users have to succumb to this privacy concern every time their emails are forwarded to their Gmail accounts through a forwarding feature that’s present in almost all email providers.