Microsoft has launched a scathing attack on Google’s privacy practices in an attempt to win customers over to Outlook. The tactic looks to be the work of a former political advisor to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
The campaign is the continuation of a previous attack on the Google Shopping tool. Microsoft is trying to combine both attacks under a somewhat clunky slogan suggesting that customers have been “Scroogled.”
The point of contention here is the way Google’s computers scan the contents of Gmail messages to deliver more relevant advertising at the top of the screen when you read the message. Microsoft contends this is a complete invasion of privacy and that many users are unaware of it. It also stresses that Outlook doesn’t use such tactics.
A dedicated website for the campaign cites a survey of Gmail users that shows 87 percent “believe using email content to serve ads is an invasion of their privacy.” Rather oddly the same survey found that 71 percent of Gmail users were unaware of the practice.
That appears to mean that nearly one in five Gmail users known what Google is doing, think it’s an invasion of privacy, and use the service anyway.
It’s certainly a comprehensive piece of work, complete with statistics, quotes (Google chief Eric Schmidt saying “The Google policy on a lot of things is to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it”) and dramatic videos.
One of these even shows a close-up of a face with the eyes reacting to the contents of an e-mail, heavily implying that a human being reads through Gmail messages. Google says that doesn’t happen, and it’s certainly a practical impossibility that it’s standard practice.
The attacks are said to have had some input from Mark Penn, a former political campaigner who now works for Microsoft. He’s previously told the Wall Street Journal that Microsoft needs to do more to get die-hard Google users to consider breaking their habits.
It doesn’t seem as if consumers are too taken with the issue however. As part of the campaign Microsoft has set up a petition trying to force Google to stop scanning e-mails. At the time of writing, a mere 2,186 people had signed it.