Services & Software

Google really does Scroogle, regulator says

A UK regulator approves a Microsoft ad that claims Google scans every word of your e-mails, while Redmond only scans them for viruses and spam.

Victory! Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When Microsoft and justice hold hands, it can be a warming sight.

Redmond has sometimes seen itself on the wrong side of legal decisions, so when something goes in its favor, the celebrations ought to be special.

Especially when one of the pillars of its recent Spit-At-Every-Competitor strategy is vindicated.

Some laughed when Microsoft began to accuse Google of being a Scroogler. For myself, I laughed because the ads had all the executional style of a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church.

The suggestion in the ads was that Google was spying on your every word, while Microsoft was a defender of privacy.

The more ads ran, the more Google turned its nose up at them. Now, however, a UK advertising regulator has agreed with Microsoft that its ads are entirely accurate.

As the Guardian doodles it, Microsoft ran a radio ad that began with nonsensical words. This might remind some of most radio ads they hear.

However, this one was overlayed with the words: "Pig Latin may be hard to understand, but you probably need it if you use Gmail, because Gmail scans every word of your e-mails to sell ads."

The advertising authorities received a couple of complaints, which stated that the ad was misleading because Microsoft does the very same thing.

There is no evidence that these complaints came from an L. Page and an S. Brin.

Microsoft defended itself heartily. It said it only scanned e-mail for protective reasons, not to be able to sell you "better" ads.

The authority agreed with this. It ruled: "Because the ad made clear that the privacy claims were in relation to ad targeting, which does not carry out, we therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading."

Those who enjoy the novels of John le Carré might wonder why Microsoft had omitted the other reason it scans e-mail: to check whether someone is doing something that Microsoft has decided is against its commercial interests.

Still, hearts must be slightly aflutter in Redmond to know it has right on its side.

Now, if only it could get everyone to l oathe those Scroogley Chromebooks a little more.