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Microsoft: the 'Scroogled' Show Must Go On 286

theodp writes "Microsoft says that the death of its 'Scroogled' ad campaign against Google has been greatly exaggerated. 'Scroogled will go on as long as Google keeps Scroogling people,' said a Microsoft spokesperson. 'Nearly 115,000 people signed a petition asking Google to stop going through their Gmail.' So, is Microsoft's scare campaign justified? Well, in a recently-published patent application for a Method and System for Dynamic Textual Ad Distribution Via Email, Google explains how its invention can be used to milk more money from advertisers by identifying lactating Moms, which might make some uneasy. Google also illustrates how advertisers can bid on access to those suffering from breast cancer, bi-polar disorder, depression, and panic anxiety. Hey, what could possibly go wrong?"
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Microsoft: the 'Scroogled' Show Must Go On

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  • by Grand Facade ( 35180 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:14AM (#43077759)

    That cannot be obtained from your doctor, and Google is going to sell it???!!!!!

    This is not going to end well.

    We all thought Big Brother was the Govn't, it's looking like Google is who we have to watch out for.

  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:20AM (#43077787) Journal

    Is Microsoft working under the theory that (since they have other profitable areas of business, and Google basically doesn't) it will be wholly worth it if the can salt the earth under both Google and their own advertising efforts []?

    Or are they making the best of a bad situation by advertising the inferiority of their analytics capabilities as a privacy feature?

    Or are they simply hoping that mutually applicable accusations will stick to whoever they are made against first?

  • Pot, meet kettle. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:20AM (#43077799) Homepage

    And Microsoft isn't doing the same?

    I'm all for informing people on what information they give to companies, and how those companies will use it. But at least don't be hypocritical about it.
    Also, a huge part of the world doesn't care, as is obvious by their Facebook and Twitter activity.

  • Scroogled, ha ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tibit ( 1762298 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:23AM (#43077815)

    I don't know why people even believe in this shit. What, you are all seriously so naive as to think Microsoft is not doing the very same thing? That's the whole fucking reason they offer a mail service, for crying out loud! There is no money in it for them at all unless they extract information that can be monetized. If you want a usable enough service, there can't be nearly enough ads there to pay for it. Google and MS are doing the same, they just use a common tactic of pretending like they are very different. Large-scale free mail hosting is a financial loss unless you mine the data. The data doesn't even necessarily need to be sold to third parties, there are other groups within Google and Microsoft that use it. Just think of how big of a language corpus it gives both companies to develop their other tools on. Imagine you're a search engine or a translation service startup. You're at a big disadvantage to both MS and Google precisely because you don't have billions of sentences of text as your reference.

  • by drapetomaniac ( 1379039 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:23AM (#43077821)
    If I was an advertiser and saw the Sgroogled campaign - the message to me is that Google has a better advertiser platform.
  • So why use it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:23AM (#43077823)
    FTFA : -

    Nearly 115,000 people signed a petition asking Google to stop going through their Gmail

    So why the hell do they use Gmail? Here's a clue for them - use a proper email client.

  • Fear Mongering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:31AM (#43077883)

    So, Google can scan through emails anonymously and target ads based on that. Nothing new here at all. There is no tie to the actual account when it does this, and nobody is "reading my email". If, however, I'm not OK with algorithms parsing the email, I can just stop using the free service. Simple. And pointing to a settlement where Google paid out because it allowed Canadian pharmacy ads that were against US federal law has NOTHING to do with whether or not they are looking at your email.

    This is just fear mongering, much like the Scroogled campaign is to begin with. There are 425 million gmail users according to wikipedia. Having 115,000 complaints is such a small percentage of their user base that it's not really worth talking about. 0.025% Bottom line is that it's an ad-supported platform, and they provide targeted ads that are more relevant. That may be beyond the comprehension of some users and it might make them feel that somehow the whole Scroogled FUD is real, in which case they can opt to use another service.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:36AM (#43077917) Journal

    Whether through malice, incompetence, or simple inertia, privacy law tends to exhibit a substantial lack of imagination in how it protects information.

    A few professions with very long histories(doctors, lawyers, sometimes priests if your jurisdiction isn't so hot on church/state separation) who necessarily have access to privileged information in order to operate tend to be covered; but historically novel entities, or those who use novel inferential methods, tend not to be.

    (In practice, I suspect that advertising sellers would also be happy to weasel-word it: "Goodness no, we don't sell consumers' medical information or records! We don't have those, and that would be wicked and naughty. We merely strive to match contextually relevant advertisements to people who might be interested in them. However, if you are interested in an ad-buy targeting customers who searched for 'how is babby formed', or 'breast cancer doctors boston ma' or 'signs of depression', please call our sales team!" That's where you are pretty doomed. When it comes right down to it, people absolutely bleed data about themselves in the course of their everyday activities, not merely when they explicitly tell their lawyer something or let their doctor conduct a test, and now we have the technology to piece together and draw inferences from all those little bits and pieces that people reveal throughout the day.)

  • by theVarangian ( 1948970 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:45AM (#43077977)

    A Microsoft sponsored petition had 115,000 signatures! That's probably more people than are using Windows 8.

    Of course, we should double check and make sure all of those signatures belong to actual living people, and not dead people. MS has a history of fake grass roots campaigns involving dead people []. You should all listen to your international corporate overlords and be outraged at being scroogled, but ignore the fact that Microsoft reserves the right to examine all of the data on your sky drive [].

    It shouldn't suprise us that Microsoft products are so popular among the dead. After all, Balmer is one of the most brain-dead CEO's in the tech world. They used to be such a scrappy competitive company. Then the 1990's happened.

    Asking Google to stop rifling through their e-mail is a perfectly reasonalbe request, as long as the people making that request understand that they will then either have to pay a subscription fee or that they will be told by Google to go someplace else where that feature is on offer. GMail is free because Google can rifle through your mail, harvest your personal data and sell it in an anonymized form (or so they claim) to advertisers. You either get an e-mail service where you can pay for privacy or you sacrifice your privacy to get e-mail for free. You can't have your cake and eat it too. There is no such thing as free lunch, even freetards pay a price for 'free stuff' it just isn't always money. It's amazing how hard it is for some people to understand that (general observation, not accusing number6x personally).

  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @09:55AM (#43078039)
    Any lawyer, doctor, or otherwise professional dealing with confidential information should use a private email service. They should also advise clients to do the same. Failure of the client to do so is thier fault. And snail mail options do still exist.
  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:01AM (#43078089)

    I use my own email server so no scroogling.

    That's quite brilliant of you to never email someone with a gmail account. That must take a lot of diligence.

  • Re:So why use it? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:06AM (#43078121)

    Email providers usually ADVERTISE that they're parsing and analyzing your email. They usually call it Spam-Filter or Virus-Scanner.

    Automated text analysis != reading your mails

    (please note. I'm not saying that automated text analysis never ever won't break your privacy. It may do so, but does not per se)

  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:10AM (#43078151)

    The fact of the matter is, Google HAS the information, and shouldn't. Selling it would be a second crime. The post office doesn't read every letter I send through the mail to figure out which junkmail I'd like best.

  • Google doesn't sell your info to companies. Google delivers ads to target demographics.

    This is a very important distinction that many people (apparently yourself included) don't understand, and one that Microsoft is basically outright lying about.

    They parse your email for keywords to determine which ad to show you, just the same way your email is parsed by a computer for a spam filter. And Microsoft does the same thing. They have contextual ads on their free email service as well.

    Given that Microsoft is outright lying, they need to be called out on it.

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:27AM (#43078289)

    Mail has an expectation of privacy. You send it in an envelope.

    Email does not have an expectation of privacy. The envelope icon on all the major GUI programs for email is incredibly misleading. Email is more like a postcard - the content is in the open, it can be read by all the postmen and guys at the sorting office. It's always been like this.

    Google have always been open about processing your mail. It's right there in the agreement you click through when you sign up. People acting all shocked and shaken about it just reveal that they don't understand the technology and also enter into agreements they don't understand... perhaps they'd like to buy an iPhone?

    This is one of the manifold problems with people not receiving an education about the technology they use.

    If you want private email, now, as always, you need to hide it, which for email, means you encrypt it. None of the large commercial players, or the government, are going to educate you about this, because it threatens their power over you.

  • More Accurately (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Y2KDragon ( 525979 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:27AM (#43078293)
    Since Google admitted they do that, Microsoft is pointing at that and saying how Google is bad for it. What Microsoft isn't telling anyone is that they are doing EXACTLY THE SAME THING (well, may not exactly, but darn near close to it), but isn't telling you they are. Thus, their results are "better" because they are sneaky about it.
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:50AM (#43078503) Homepage Journal

    No, they're not.

    This about a computer determining what ads to show people based upon educated guesses as to what they might be interested in.

    Google is not selling this information. Nobody can go to Google and say "Here's $10, tell me if my neighbor's pregnant" or anything remotely close to it.

    The problem here is language. People use language that is similar for:

    - Describing a private detective investigating a named person

    - Describing a non-sentient computer doing textual analysis in order to provide a service whose results are only known to the person providing the text.

    In common with most people, I don't give a rat's ass whether my computer thinks I'm pregnant. If Sergey Brin thinks I'm pregnant, that might be another story, but there's no evidence he has the ability to find out (that is, the tool to find out might be possible to make, but it's unlikely he's made it or has access to it if someone has.) And I certainly would object if Google was sending lists of named, identifiable people it thinks are pregnant to Gerber. But they're not. And I'd be spitting blood and demanding Google be subject to terrorist attacks if Google were sending lists of named, identifiable people it thinks are pregnant to insurance companies. But they're not.

    Sure, it's possible this information might be abusable. Likewise, it's possible for me to abuse that 3D printable lower receiver on the Interwebs by doing the work necessary to get that receiver, get a gun anonymously, and shoot someone I don't like with it. But is the fact I could do that if I wanted to a reason to run a FUD and hate campaign against little old me?

  • WRONG (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oGMo ( 379 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @10:51AM (#43078531)

    So if you have a physical mail, and someone gets to read it and insert ads with it (without knowing who you are - say they aren't allowed to see the address), it would be fine?

    Straw man. Despite MS's claims, "someone" at Google is not reading your email. If you had said: "So, if you have a physical mail, and an algorithm generates ads from the content to help support the Post Office, and it's completely anonymous to the advertisers, it would be fine?", you might have a valid argument.

    And I disagree with other posters that email doesn't have an expectation of privacy, though that doesn't mean it is private, unless you have strong end-to-end encryption.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @11:35AM (#43078963)

    Kind of amazing that microsoft has had the nerve to go after Google's privacy practices, when its own regarding Bing generally arent as good.

    Attacking your opponent, preemptively, where you are week is a fairly common tactic in political campaigns, especially for candidates that don't have a clear positive message to sell. It associates a negative which you might be vulnerable to with your opponent in the public eye, and makes it look (at least, for people who don't spend the effort to dig for the substance, but that's most of the public) like they are just engaging in "me too" attacks if they do point out your weakness.

    It is probably not even a little bit coincidental that the "Scroogled" campaign coincided with Microsoft bringing long-time political consultant/campaign manager Mark Penn onboard as an executive.

  • by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @12:34PM (#43079749)

    How can Bing scan personal email?

    Perhaps I was not clear. Bing datamines []; thats its entire purpose. MS owns Bing, and also owns Hotmail (now Outlook). Historically, Hotmail ALSO served email-relevant ads [], as does yahoo [] and basically everyone. Google simply was the first to do so.

    Perhaps Outlook does not now, but that hardly changes the gross hypocrisy of it all.

  • Re:Wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Roman Coder ( 413112 ) on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:43PM (#43081477)

    Which one is legally binding, the privacy link, or the position link?

  • Re:Wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 05, 2013 @02:44PM (#43081493)

    Do you get the difference between "they have reserved the right per their privacy policy" and "their marketing campaign says they don't do it"? Do you think what you quoted is legally binding in any way?

    If they'd care about that, they could at least give a separate policy stating they've restricted themselves. As it is now, it just links to common MS policy, quoted above.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban