Microsoft: Outlook users need "protection" from Gmail ads

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Survey suggests most people aren't comfortable with Google scanning emails to display ads

Outlook.com users need to be "protected" from Gmail's email-scanning ads, Microsoft has claimed.

The claim follows a survey by Microsoft that revealed people resent companies scanning their emails to display ads.

"Emails are personal — and people feel that reading through their emails to sell ads is out of bounds," said Stefan Weitz, senior director of Online Services at Microsoft.

"We honour the privacy of our Outlook.com users, and we are concerned that Google violates that privacy every time an Outlook.com user exchanges messages with someone on Gmail," Weitz. "This campaign is as much about protecting Outlook.com users from Gmail as it is about making sure Gmail users know what Google’s doing."

If you write a friend to let her know you are separating from your husband, Google sells ads against this information to divorce lawyers

The company said it would be running adverts online and offline to raise awareness.

According to the Microsoft survey, which didn't mention Gmail or Google by name, the company found that 70% of the 1,000 people surveyed didn't know web companies scanned emails for advertising purposes.

The results also showed that 88% of respondents disagreed with the idea of scanning emails in order to show tailored ads.

No secret

Google has never made a secret of the scanning technology it uses, and says that it helps keep the service free without impacting privacy. "Ad matching in Gmail is fully automated; no humans read your email in order to show you ads," the company says in its support pages.

The company gives examples such as how "you’ve recently received lots of messages about photography and cameras. In Gmail, you may see an ad with a deal from a local camera store."

Microsoft also gave some examples of its own. "For example, if you write a friend to let her know you are separating from your husband, Google sells ads against this information to divorce lawyers, who post ads alongside it," Microsoft said.

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