In a vicious attack on Google, Microsoft has alleged that the company violates the privacy of Gmail users by reading their emails to serve up advertisements.
Microsoft, which competes with Google, has also launched a website - www.scroogled.com - that talks about "Google's practice of going through the contents of all Gmail emails to sell and target ads". Google said no humans went through the mails; only algorithms determined the ads.
Stefan Weitz, Microsoft's senior director of online services, said, "Emails are personal and people feel reading... their emails to sell ads is out of bounds... We are concerned that Google violates privacy every time an Outlook.com user exchanges messages with someone on Gmail."
Advertising allows co to offer free services: Google
Launching an attack on Google, Stefan Weitz, Microsoft's senior director of online services, said "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," he said.
Commenting on Microsoft's campaign, a Google spokesperson said that advertising allows the company to offer free services. "Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge... We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant," said Samantha Smith, a Google spokesperson.
"No humans read your email or Google Account information in order to show you advertisements or related information. An automated algorithm determines which ads are shown," added a Google official.
Personalised advertisements have been a part of the web for several years now and are considered industry practice. Websites like Google and Facebook not only track web users when they are logged into their network but also keep an eye on the content they produce through automated processes. In this way, these websites figure out keywords and serve advertisements that users may need.
In fact, Microsoft too shows personalized advertisements across its websites, including on outlook.com. The company also reads emails landing up in an outlook.com mailbox but claims that it is done to filter out spam.
Google had earlier said that its computers also scan the user-generated content to make services more relevant to users. One example of such service is Google Now, a virtual assistant available on Android phones, which can automatically track a shipment for user after scanning the tracking number in emails that courier companies send.
This is not the first time Microsoft has launched a 'scroogled' attack on Google. Last year, Microsoft tried to "educate" web users about Google Shopping, a search engine specific for products. Earlier in 2012, the company created a goofy video in which a person called 'Gmail Man' was shown reading messages before they got delivered.
Similarly, this is not the first time Google's practice to keep track of its users is under spotlight. In the past, the company has faced several lawsuits from consumers. Last year, Google paid a fine of over $22 million to the US Federal Trade Commission for ignoring the Do Not Track option enabled by users of Safari web browser.
In the last few years, the competition between Microsoft and Google has intensified. The rise in popularity of Android devices and cloud-based services like Google Docs means Google is now more than a search engine company. While Microsoft has launched direct attack on Google services with campaigns like 'scroogled', Google has hit back by refusing to create Gmail or Google Drive apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.