A Closer Look at Scroogled, Microsoft's Anti-Google Campaign
If you’ve been trolling tech and online advertising blogs lately then you’ve most likely caught wind of Microsoft’s Scroogled Campaign against Google. The campaign, which first launched in November, was created mainly to bash Google and promote Microsoft products such as Bing, Windows Phone, Outlook and more. It’s as anti-Google as can be and so far it has attacked the search giant’s paid inclusion in shopping search results, Gmail, Google Play, and most recently, Chrome.
In case you aren’t up to speed with Scroogled, below is a timeline that details how Scroogled made its way into the interwebs and what it’s saying about the almighty Google:
November 28, 2012 – Scroogled Launched
Microsoft first launched Scroogled.com in late November where it attacked Google’s Product Listing Ads . According to the site:
In the beginning, Google preached “Don’t be evil” – but that changed on May 31, 2012. That’s when Google Shopping announced a new initiative. Simply put, all of their shopping results are now paid ads.
In their under-the-radar announcement, Google admits that they’ve now built a purely commercial model” that delivers listings ranked by “bid price.” Google Shopping is nothing more than a list of targeted ads that unsuspecting customers assumer are search results.”
Of course, it’s important to note that Bing, like its competitor, also has paid shopping listings in its search results. But Bing argues that unlike Google, it includes free listings in its results and ranks them based on their relevance, and not according to the highest bidder.
February 6, 2013 – Scroogled Went Negative on Gmail
After making a splash in November, Scroogled popped back into our radars, this time with an attack against Gmail.
In this round, Microsoft published a video demonstrating how Gmail “reads” every word of every email in order to serve targeted ads.
According to the Scroogled site:
Google goes through every Gmail that's sent or received, looking for keywords so they can target Gmail users with paid ads. And there's no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy. Outlook.com is different—we don't go through your email to sell ads.
So what’s Microsoft solution to this abomination? Why, switch to Outlook of course. Because people need “email that respects their privacy.”
April 9, 2013 – Strike 3: Microsoft Attacks Google Play
This time around, Microsoft points out how Google handles user data whenever they buy an application from Google Play. They released another set of videos, this time stating that whenever you purchase something from Google Play, Google shares your name, email address, and neighborhood (i.e. Los Angeles, CA) with the app developer.
Microsoft then urges people to switch to Windows Phone or Bing, stating,
“If you can’t trust their app store, maybe you shouldn’t trust Google for anything. Try Bing.”
While it’s true that Google does share user information with its developers, it’s worth mentioning that in e-commerce, tons of companies are also practicing this. Sharing shopper information with merchants is commonplace, and mostly necessary to complete a transaction and offer support. As TechCrunch put it, “Better start your attack against Amazon, Etsy and everyone else on the Internet, Microsoft.”
May 16, 2013 – “Leaked” Internal Scroogled Ad Surfaces Online
Last week, a supposedly internal video attacking Chrome somehow found its way to the interwebs. In it, Microsoft parodies the Chrome: Now Everywhere ad . Check it out below:
As you can see, the Scroogled video uses the same music and format as the original Chrome ad, and illustrates how Chrome tracks user behavior and data across multiple devices.
Interestingly, unlike its previous videos, this time Scroogled didn’t suggest an alternative to Chrome. (But that’s probably because Microsoft knows that people would rather get “Scroogled” than use Internet Explorer.)
About the Whole Invasion of Privacy Issue
The whole premise of Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign is that Google is evil because it invades user privacy and uses their information for profit. Sounds menacing, right?
But let’s get real here. Yes, privacy is important, and companies should most definitely respect people’s right to it. But the fact is, there can never be complete and total privacy online. The web will cease to exist if information sharing suddenly came to a halt.
If you’re enjoying the benefits that the World Wide Web gives you, then you must accept that all those perks come with the price: Your data (or at least some of it). If you can’t swallow that, then you need to get off the Internet.
And here’s the thing: Yes, companies like Google collect our data and use it to display relevant ads. But sharing some of the things we do online also gives users some advantages. User information is used, not just to serve ads, but also to personalize and improve their experience.
Facebook, for instance tracks our browsing activities to be able to put interesting and relevant stories on our News Feed. (And yes, Facebook also collects our data to determine which ads to display.)
That being said, Microsoft, being a for-profit, technology company is completely aware of that, and the fact that they’re attacking Google’s practices when it’s doing some of the same things, is hypocritical and to be honest, kind of lame. (A “leaked” ad? Really?)
Hey Microsoft, instead of scaring users through campaigns like Scroogled, why not use that huge advertising budget of yours to create more tasteful ads? Or better yet, why not work on creating more superior products instead of attacking your competitors?
What You Can Do
If you’re really uncomfortable with sharing your data, you can take more proactive measures to protect it.
You can go to the settings of all the services that you use online and specify the data and information that they can collect. If you find that they don’t give you an option to take control of your information, then you can always stop using the service and sign up with a site that doesn’t collect any data from you. (Good luck finding those.)
If you saw the Scroogled campaign against Chrome and you’re worried that the browser stores all your data and browsing activity, then turn on incognito browsing, a Chrome feature that lets you surf the web in stealth mode. Or better yet, switch to another browser.