A Valentine’s Day message from Microsoft: Don’t get scroogled

Don’t get “scroogled” this Valentine’s Day by letting Google read your love messages and use the content for targeted ads. That’s the invasion of privacy Microsoft wants you to consider in their Valentine’s Day Scroogled video, part of their campaign to get people to move away from Google services like Gmail.

Google ad software analyzes Gmail messages for keywords that it uses to target advertising shown along the side of the Gmail web page, sometimes with unintentionally comic or distasteful results. Microsoft wants people tired of this invasion of privacy to move their email to Outlook.com, where they don’t use message content to target ads (at least not now).

When Gmail was first available (by invitation only) I was studying information security and privacy at Carnegie Mellon University. Using email content to target ads was a new invasion of privacy that was discussed in many of my classes, but because we all understood that it was the computer doing the analysis, not people reading your email, it was considered more of an annoyance than a threat.

The bigger privacy concern with Gmail was how your Internet searches on Google would become tied to your email identity. Despite that, the Gmail software was so much better than other email options that even my data privacy professors could not resist it. The general suggestion was to go ahead and use Gmail, but use it in a different browser than where you use Google to prevent the activity from being tied to your account. (For example, use Gmail in Chrome, and use Google in Firefox.) I did that for a while, then I got lazy. As for the ads the appear on the side of my Gmail screen, I largely ignore them.

Here is the Scroogled video from Microsoft:

What do you think of the Scroogled video? Are you a Gmail user? Do the targeted ads bother you? Would you consider switching to Outlook.com?

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