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Microsoft attacks Gmail over targeted ads policy

07 Feb 2013
privacy-debate

Microsoft has launched a public awareness campaign over Google's use of targeted Gmail ads.

Redmond has launched a sponsored study and advertising campaign with the hopes of raising fears over Google's ad serving practices. The campaign comes despite reports that Microsoft offers advertisers similar targeted ad opportunities.

"Emails are personal and people feel that reading through their emails to sell ads is out of bounds," said senior director of online services at Microsoft Stefan Weitz in a statement.

"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. 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."

Microsoft claimed Google is skimming through Gmail users' email with the aim of serving up targeted web ads. The firm has released a petition to stop Google's practices.

Along with the petition, Microsoft sponsored a study to gauge consumer awareness of Google's practices. About 52 percent of those surveyed said that they were not aware that online email clients search mail to serve targeted ads.

Furthermore, 88 percent of those surveyed reported that they would disapprove of the practice if it existed. About 83 percent also said they feel targeted ad practices were an invasion of personal privacy.

Microsoft's campaign comes in spite of the fact that the firm also takes part in targeted ad practices. As first spotted by the Wall Street Journal, Outlook.com users general information is collected for ad serving purposes when their account is created.

Information including age, gender, and location are offered to marketers to create targeted ads for end users. Microsoft's own privacy statement outlines the policy in full.

Microsoft does offer an opt-out option for targeted ads. The firm's opt-out option does not stop the firm from collecting data but does prevent Microsoft from sharing that information with advertisers.

This isn't the first time Redmond has come after Google. Last year, the firm slammed the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for not taking s tougher stance against Google's alleged search monopoly.

V3 contacted Google about the campaign. The firm was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing.

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James Dohnert
About

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club, CachedTech.com, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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