Microsoft’s latest advertising campaign dubbed ‘Keep Your Email Private’ has been targeted directly against Google’s Gmail service. The campaign features around Google’s latest effort’s to turn one of its free services into a source of revenue, in this case using selective advertising based on the user’s private mail content to deliver relevant advertising.
The system works by scanning your Subjects and Content from your email for key words that will help deliver personalise targeted advertising to the user.
In most of Microsoft’s latest advertisements they include a reference to their website keppyouremailprivate.com which has been created to highlight how and why Google is able to scan users email. It also provides several mock-up examples on what kind of advertising you would expect to encounter when using the Google mail service. The main objective of this website is to highlight that Microsoft’s equivalent free service ‘outlook’ does not actively scan your email for keywords, for use in advertising. Microsoft does state that outlook will only scan the contents of your email to help protect you, and to display, sort and categorize your e-mail. This is most likely a reference to their spam filtering service.
In one of Microsoft’s adverts they satirically suggest using an alternative language called Pig Latin where the words written in English are translated according to a set of rules. This can be done using an online translator. The purpose of which is to prevent Google from finding any relevant adverts based on this content.
An example of how the ‘selective advertising’ works could be as follows. You receive an email from a known sender about buying a house in the local area, Google would then provide you with adverts based on this content, which could include the area in which you were looking for a house, type of house etc.
What Microsoft doesn’t mention is that the mail scanning process is fully automated and at no point does a human ever read your emails or account information. Google has stated that the Advertisement targeting in Google mail will not deliver adverts based on sensitive information, such as race, religion, health etc.
Any users who don’t wish to receive targeted advertising from Google based their personal email content will have to find an alternative free email provider, or install a piece of ad blocking software such as ad block, which will run as an add-on to your browser to prevent all advertising, targeted or otherwise.