The headline last Friday from NPR’s KQED radio station was that Microsoft would be winding down it’s Scroogled campaign against rival Google. Stefan Weitz, Microsoft senior director of online services told KQED, “That part is about finished,” speaking of the campaign looking to make people aware of privacy issues in advertising on Google services, including Gmail.
Official company statements, however made to TechCrunch yesterday declare that, “Scroogled will go on as long as Google keeps Scroogling people.” The statement continues, stating Weitz’s comments are not true and that we should, “stay tuned for the next chapter.” This is at least good news for the conversation around privacy, because inevitably any time the campaign is talked about the issue of what both companies are doing comes up, not just what Google is doing with Gmail.
The campaign aimed mainly at Gmail users, highlighted the fact that Google goes through all your personal email in order to sell ads. Some have speculated that recent Microsoft hiring of former Bill and Hillary Clinton pollster, Mark Penn, played a hand in the campaign. According the the original KQED piece, “…the Scroogled campaign was more reminiscent of political advertising.” It was also noted in InfoWorld, that Microsoft does actually use the email subject lines to target ads, just not the contents of the entire message.
“Scroogled will go on as long as Google keeps Scroogling people.” ~Official Microsoft Company Statement
According to Microsoft, the Scroogled campaign has prompted 115,000 people to sign a petition asking Google to stop going through their email. What it doesn’t say though, is that anyone canadjust their ad settings to disallow display based on this personal information, and a number of other things, like blocking certain advertisers if you want. But judging from most recent Gmail user numbers, and the fact that only 0.03% (115k out ouf of the 425 million) of them signed the petition, the campaign doesn’t seem to be resonating. And if you want to opt out of Microsoft’s personalized advertising (yea, they do it too), you can do that here.
Microsoft seems to be focused on a minor detail that really doesn’t set what they are doing to target ads apart from what Google is doing. In fact, some brand marketers say that all this proves, is that Google has better targeting options that help make ads more relevant, providing consumers with additional choices and more value to advertisers.
It’s an important detail too, Google (or Bing) isn’t selling your information to people or businesses directly. They are delivering advertising to a targeted demographic of users. As user ‘squiggleslash’ on Slashdot says, “Google is not selling this information. Nobody can go to Google and say “Here’s $10, tell me if my neighbors pregnant. They aren’t sending identifiable names to Gerber.” Most reasonable people understand that free means you’re going to see advertisements when it comes to online services.
What it has done though, is increase the debate about privacy and ads in general, it’s not just Google who is looking at your email. If you look at the Scroogled.com website under “Our Position”, it states they go through your email also, but, “…only scans the contents of your email to protect you and display, categorize, and sort your mail.”
For more information about the Scroogled ad campaign, visit http://www.scroogled.com/