REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 6, 2013 — Today, Outlook.com launched Don’t Get Scroogled by Gmail, a national campaign at http://www.scroogled.com to educate Americans about Google’s practice of going through the contents of all Gmail emails to sell and target ads. According to a public GfK Roper study, commissioned by Microsoft Corp., 70 percent of consumers don’t know that major email providers routinely engage in the practice of reading through their personal email to sell ads — something that 88 percent of people disapprove of once they are informed. Unlike Gmail, Outlook.com doesn’t go through the content of users’ emails to show ads. Outlook.com hopes this campaign will help educate consumers about Google’s email practices and promote Outlook.com’s policy of prioritizing the privacy of its users’ emails.
To help consumers have their voice heard, today Outlook.com launched a petition to help them get the message to Google that going through personal email messages to sell ads is unacceptable. Outlook.com encourages consumers to sign the petition at Scroogled.com and tell Google to stop going through their emails to sell ads. Outlook.com encourages consumers to prioritize their privacy by switching to Outlook.com.
How Google Uses Personal Email Content to Sell Ads
Google goes through every single word of personal Gmail messages and uses that information to sell and target ads. As Google explains on its website, “In Gmail, most of the ads we show appear next to an open email message and are related to the contents of the current email conversation or thread.” 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. Or if you ask a friend for vacation suggestions, Google uses this information to target you with ads from travel agencies or airlines that want your business.
Google even goes through emails from non-Gmail users to generate advertising income. Gmail goes through all incoming email messages, from any email provider, and sells ads based on the content of those emails — a practice that nearly 90 percent of Americans agree should end.
Unfortunately even if they try, consumers cannot stop Google from going through their personal email for the purpose of showing them targeted ads. Google does not enable Gmail users to opt out of seeing ads based on the content of emails.
There are currently six active class action lawsuits against Google, all alleging illegal eavesdropping or interception under federal and state wiretapping laws, related to Google’s scanning of emails.
“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 honor 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. 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.”
New GfK Roper Poll: Public Largely Unaware and Strongly Disapproves of the Practice
A new GfK Roper poll, commissioned by Microsoft, shows that only 30 percent of Americans are aware that any email service goes through the content of personal emails to sell ads, and 88 percent of consumers disapprove of this practice.
Key results from this survey include the following:
88 percent of Americans disapprove of email service providers scanning the content of their personal emails in order to target ads, and 52 percent disapprove strongly.
89 percent of Americans agree that email service providers should not be allowed to scan the content of personal emails in order to target ads.
83 percent of Americans agree that email service providers scanning the content of their personal emails to target ads is an invasion of privacy.
70 percent of Americans didn’t believe or didn’t know that any major email service provider scans the content of personal emails in order to target ads.
88 percent of email users believe that email service providers should allow users to “opt out” if they prefer that the content of their emails not be scanned in order to target ads.
Outlook.com believes users should be informed about Google’s email privacy intrusions and consumers should know they have a choice to switch to Outlook.com.
About the Don’t Get Scroogled Campaign
With the Don’t Get Scroogled by Gmail consumer education campaign, Outlook.com is doing two things: First, it is highlighting Google’s practice of going through the personal contents of emails to benefit Google’s bottom line ahead of the user. Outlook.com has launched this education campaign and petition to help consumers get the message to Google that going through personal email messages to sell ads is unacceptable. Second, Outlook.com wants to highlight that it is an email service that puts consumers’ privacy first.
Beginning today and continuing for the next few weeks, the Outlook.com-sponsored Don’t Get Scroogled activities will appear online and offline, demonstrating why consumers should be concerned and helping them take action. Outlook.com is also calling on consumers to join the petition drive to tell Google to stop going through their users’ email to sell ads. Consumers can also visit http://www.scroogled.com to get information about Google’s practices and updates on the situation.
“Outlook.com believes your privacy is not for sale,” Weitz said. “We believe people should have choice and control over their private email messages, whether they are sharing banking information or pictures of their family or discussing their medical history.”
Weitz added, “Outlook.com does not scan the contents of your personal email to sell ads. Outlook.com is an email service that prioritizes your own and your family’s privacy. You wouldn’t let the post office look inside your mail, so why would you let Google?”
More information about how Outlook.com prioritizes your privacy can be found at http://www.scroogled.com.
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About this study: The RDD telephone survey was conducted Feb. 1-4, 2013 by GfK’s Public Affairs & Corporate Communications division, among a nationally representative sample of 1,006 adults ages 18 or older. Interviews were conducted with 753 respondents on landlines and 253 respondents on cellular telephones. The data were weighted on age, sex, education, race and geographic region. The margin of error on results based on the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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