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Microsoft: Outlook users need "protection" from Gmail ads

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By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 7 Feb 2013 at 08:31

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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User comments

Is there a way to say, "I've bought my camera now. Please leave me alone"? If not, you're going to be bugged by adverts for stuff you already have. Stupid.

By John_Greythorne on 7 Feb 2013

True, but...

I think what Outlook.com users really need is a service without interruption. Outlook.com has had several outages over the past few weeks. Irritating enough to make me contemplate switching providers - although I haven't because SkyDrive is a real boon.

By 0thello on 7 Feb 2013

I notice that when you try to opt out of adverts, you get redirected to a nonexistent page. "We are sorry but the information that you have requested cannot be found."

By John_Greythorne on 7 Feb 2013

I've switched from gmail to Outlook.com recently. The main reason I did this was because I like putting my email in different folders and just find Outlook.com supports this really well. No complaints so far.

By ish44 on 7 Feb 2013

Google ads in Gmail - one line sitting at the top that's easy to ignore. Hardly a burden or eye-sore (especially as it matches themes and basically blends in).

As for 'reading', that's so ridiculous it's going into scaremongering. All it's doing is scanning through a message for keywords or phrases. Exactly what you'd do if you did a search of your mailbox. Should we be concerned that every time we do a search our e-mails are being read by Google? What about Outlook's search function?

By Innokenti on 7 Feb 2013

They don't want Google...

to stop displaying adverts. They just want to scare people into switching to Outlook.com.

That said, I've got accounts with both and actively use Hotmail/Outlook.com, whilst the Google account only gets used for Google internal Spam.

By big_D on 7 Feb 2013

@Innokenti

Precisely... and exactly what they do when they scan it for spam. Or format it to display it on screen.

By halsteadk on 7 Feb 2013

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