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Who’s been reading your gmail to target ads?

February 7th, 2013

email graphicDid you know that Google uses the contents of your gmail accounts to target ads to you?

Microsoft has just launched a campaign touting the fact that its Outlook email product does not do that.

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

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.

In a news release, Microsoft says, “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.”

Google does not let users opt-out of this email ad-targeting.

Microsoft OfficeThe 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 your 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 your 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.

Personally, we switched from Outlook to gmail several years ago because at the time, you could not get to your Outlook mail without access to the computer on which is was installed. We also had other problems with Outlook’s responsiveness and carrying folders and old email over to new machines.

We think this is a clever and telling marketing campaign, but it’s not getting us to switch back to Outlook.

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