Microsoft said this week that it won't violate customer privacy and crawl through email messages to provide targeting advertising—a tactic Google uses in its Gmail service. The comments were made by Microsoft Senior Director of Platform Strategy Tim O'Brien during an address at the SaaSCon 2010 conference in Santa Clara, California.
"This is enshrined in policy across all our online services," O'Brien said, noting that the emergence of pervasive cloud computing requires a new level of trust between users and the companies that store their data. Under such a model, Microsoft and other cloud computing vendors can make money via subscription plans and—in the case of free services—advertising. But that advertising will never be generated based on user data, as Google does. Instead, it will be generated using gender, age, and preferences that aren't traceable to individuals.
Google says its automatic advertising isn't as dangerous as it seems. Responding to a query from InfoWorld, the online giant provided the following statement: "The process is similar to what all major email services use to scan for viruses and to filter out spam. To be clear, no human being ever reads the emails sent or received during this process."