As you may be aware, a new development has taken place in the growing rivalry between Microsoft and Google, in the form of a Microsoft ad campaign called Scroogled. With Google Apps having taken the lead in the growing area of web-based business applications, Microsoft has been fighting to catch up with its recently released Office 365 for Small Businesses. Its most recent effort to sway users away from its Google competitor has been through a series of bold, negative ads criticizing Google’s ad targeting, among other policies. And although the new ads have been criticized as patronizing and likened to political ads, they do bring up many important points about Google’s and Microsoft’s services.
The targeted advertising to which the foremost Scroogled ad refers is a policy of Google’s mail service in which each e-mail is automatically scanned for keywords. While many e-mail services do this solely for filtering spam messages, Google also uses it in order to predict a user’s interests, and then to display ads which seem most relevant to those interests. And while some people consider this to be almost thoughtful when compared to the random ads of many websites, most are more inclined to see it as anywhere from creepy to a serious invasion of privacy.
This is the point which Microsoft appropriately seizes upon to highlight its own mail service, Outlook. While Google obtains most of its income from its advertisers, allowing it to release relatively inexpensive products, Microsoft’s income comes far more directly from its end users. This allows Microsoft to release products without ads and, perhaps more appreciated, without ad targeting. In turn, this keeps the contents of customers’ e-mails from being used by their e-mail provider to serve the needs of advertisers.
The ad continues on to remind the viewer that while Google’s ads can be (after a fashion) disabled, the keyword logging behind them cannot, giving the users no freedom over how their e-mail content is being used. Either way, before you decide upon your business’s e-mail service provider, consider your options carefully, and mind the privacy of your e-mails.