Microsoft has revived its “Scroogled” ad campaign, this time as a means to promote Outlook.com, its Web-based email service.
Videos on Scroogled.com highlight Google’s practice of scanning each email and using keywords to help determine which ads to target at a user.
“Email between a husband and wife, or two best friends, should be personal,” says a narrator in one ad. “But Google crosses the line and goes through every single Gmail. Every word. In every email. To and from everyone. To sell ads, based on your most personal messages. … And there’s no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy.”
The voice-over happens over footage of watching eyes, though it’s not Google employees who actually scan emails but computers.
For those who might have missed the reference Microsoft was making with “crosses the line,” the video includes a clip of Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt being interviewed at the Washington Ideas Forum. Schmidt says, with a little laugh, “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.”
By contrast, Microsoft and its email services—Outlook.com, Hotmail and Office 365—”do not use the content of customers’ private emails, communications or documents to target advertising,” states the site.
What Microsoft does do, it told ABC News, is base its ads on broad demographic information, such as age, gender and ZIP code, that users provide when they sign up.
Microsoft doesn’t mentioned this on Scroogled.com—a Website that, like the video ads, is of such a quality that it looks more believably made by students, perhaps, to spoof Microsoft—but it does include study results about how people feel about Google’s Gmail practices.
Scroogled.com points out that according to a 2012 Mozaic Group study, 87 percent of Gmail users felt the practice of using email content for ads was “an invasion of their privacy”; 60 percent said they would “consider or definitely switch from Gmail” because of the practice; and 71 percent were totally unaware that their emails’ words were being used to target ads.
A Google spokesperson told ABC News that such advertising enables Google to offer its services for free, and that at Google, “We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant.”
The Scroogled.com site additionally points users to a Care2.com petition with a goal of 25,000 signatures and the agenda of getting Google to stop going through emails.
“At Outlook, we prioritize your privacy. But even if you don’t use Gmail, Google will still go through emails you send to someone who does in order to sell ads. There is absolutely no way to opt out—whether you’re a Gmail user or not,” states the petition. “It’s time to take back your privacy.”
Microsoft first launched Scroogled in November 2012, to highlight Google’s Google Shopping practices and to promote Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Google had begun charging merchants either per-click or per-transaction, according to SlashGear, which turned up relevant ads rather than the most relevant search results.
In order to keep Bing effective, Microsoft vowed, among other things, to not switch to “pay-to-rank to allow some shopping search results to appear higher than others.”