Microsoft Starts Ad Campaign Attacking Gmail Privacy

Microsoft Corp. will run a U.S. advertising campaign urging consumers to drop Google Inc.’s Gmail in favor of its own online e-mail services, stepping up their rivalry for Internet users.

Television, print and online spots starting today will feature the word “Scroogled!” in the colors of Google’s logo, criticizing the operator of the world’s most popular search engine of scanning the text of e-mail messages in order to tailor ads to users.

Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, unveiled Outlook.com in July to eventually replace its free online e-mail service Hotmail. The company, whose Bing search engine competes with Google’s is trying to gain more customers in the U.S., where Hotmail had less than half as many users as Gmail or Yahoo Inc.’s online e-mail service, according to November data from ComScore Inc.

The ad campaign includes messages such as “Think Google respects your privacy? Think again,” and “Google goes through every word of every Gmail that’s sent or received to sell ads.” Microsoft says its online services don’t scan e-mails for targeted ads.

Chris Gaither, a spokesman for Google, said no humans read e-mail or account information in order to show ads or related information.

“Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge,” Gaither wrote in an e- mail. “We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant.”

Online Petition

Besides poking fun at Google with the first such nationwide campaign from Microsoft targeting Gmail, Microsoft will also ask users to sign a petition calling on the search engine to stop scanning e-mail.

The campaign follows a “Don’t Get Scroogled” effort targeting Google’s shopping services during the holidays, and Microsoft’s Gmail Man video, in which a fictitious mailman reads aloud from the letters he delivers and confronts a worker about a medical condition in her office.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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