Google and Microsoft have been engaged in a protracted series of battles, using negative PR, cooked-up conferences, and pulling support on services for months on end. Both sides were at it again this week.
Microsoft struck first with an update to its long-running “Scroogled” campaign over the weekend. It complained that Google is now placing ads directly in your inbox. This is true. Google has started rolling out a new form of advertising in which it puts ads that look like emails in the redesigned inbox. That invades your privacy, Microsoft says, because Google’s reading your emails to figure out what ads to serve.
But this is a difficult argument for Microsoft to make. For one thing, Google has always been transparent about reading your email to generate ads next to your email—it’s just making the ads more intrusive now.
Moreover, ever since revelations of spying by America’s National Security Agency exposed the depth of the relationship between tech firms and the US government, Microsoft’s ”Your privacy is our priority” ad campaign has started to look pretty feeble. True, turning data over to government agencies as required by law is different from mining the data for commercial purposes, but arguably, the latter is more benign—with ad targeting, it’s only a computer that’s reading your email, not a person.