Microsoft Says Gmail Users are Getting ‘Scroogled’ by Google
February 25, 2013

Many Gmail users were actually quite surprised to learn that Google has been looking through their personal emails in order to find relevant keywords and place relevant ads on their screens. Although Google has been doing this for many years, and stated so, a new ad campaign funded by Microsoft is attempting to divulge this threat to email privacy. They have coined the campaign, “Scroogled.”

Creating negative attack ads against competitors is a common tactic debated all the time. Is it beneficial to point out the downfalls of an opponent, or does it simply make your own company look bad? Microsoft took the gamble, and so far it seems to have paid off. Many doubted that “Scroogled” could actually make a difference, but the petition they created against Google has surpassed its initial goals by leaps and bounds. They first set their sights fairly low. Writers and bloggers quickly jumped on Microsoft, suggesting their petition was pointless. But, just a couple weeks later, the petition has surpassed its goal. Actually, Microsoft adjusted their goal to 100,000 signatures, which they have recently surpassed as well. Some articles have been posted suggesting some of the signers might have been unclear as to what the petition was about, but we will assume that Microsoft is presenting accurate numbers.

No matter how much Microsoft funds the “Scroogled” campaign and attempts to push its own, new, free online email service, their efforts are making Gmail users think twice about what they talk about in their emails. Microsoft released an infographic outlining some of the biggest statistics they have discovered from polling Gmail users. According to that infographic, over 70% of Google Gmail users polled were completely unaware that Google uses words from their emails to display relevant advertising to them. According to the same infographic, 96% of those polled feel that Google should provide an “Opt Out” option for all users to allow them to stop Google from using keywords in their private emails to target advertisements. The numbers aren’t really shocking, but it gives insight into how many people actually know, or don’t know, what is going on with their Gmail account. The idea that a company is reading through your private messages to your spouse, friends, family, co-workers etc., is unsettling.

But one of the most misleading suggestions from “Scroogled” is that there are actually Google employees sitting at computers reading your emails line-by-line. On the contrary, a “computer” sifts through the words within the emails, unaware of context or intention, to pull common keywords and show the user relevant advertisements. Realistically, wouldn’t we all rather see advertisements about things were are actually interested in?

It looks as if “Scroogled” will be a mild success at least, if not a huge one. When you visit, you are offered plenty of links that will help you ditch Gmail and join a service focused on your privacy. Which service? The all new, free, Microsoft Outlook Express email service, of course! Every page of the website includes at least one link to the sign-up page for the Outlook online email service.

So does Microsoft really care about your email privacy, or do they simply want to drag a chunk of the market away from Google? It seems obvious that Google should create an option for its Gmail users to opt out of this email scanning system, but is “Scroogled” enough to drive users away from the most popular email service in the world? What do you think?

More about Scroogle