The Outlook owner claims Google “goes through every Gmail that’s sent or received” to look for keywords to target users with paid ads – and offers users no way to opt out of the “invasion of privacy”. Microsoft claims its online services do not scan emails in order to serve targeted ads.
Microsoft has launched a US advertising push on TV, print and online using the strapline: “Think Google respects your privacy? Think again”. Its “Scroogled.com” website also invites users to sign a petition to urge Google to stop sifting through emails to sell ads.
The company did not respond to a query on whether the campaign would be extended into the UK.
Google says the company has used targeted ads in its mail service since 2004 and that Outlook also uses a similar process.
Outlook, which Microsoft has been upgrading Hotmail users over to since the summer, serves text ads based on key words in the subject lines on email.
A Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement: “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.”s
This week’s Scroogled campaign follows Microsoft’s December “Don’t Get Scroogled” effort, that aimed to warn consumers Google’s Shopping search is largely dictated by how much brands pay to lift their rankings.