Compare Gmail vs. Outlook.com

All email service providers protect your inbox by scanning for spam, phishing attempts and malware but not all email providers use the words from your email to show you ads. Here’s a comparison of two of the major, free web-based email service providers:



  • Uses words from your sent and received email messages to display targeted ads.

  • Scans the content of your entire inbox to identify themes and trends for ad targeting.

  • Uses words from email messages sent to you from other email service providers to display ads—regardless of whether the sender has given permission to your email service provider to scan his or her message.

  • Read email service provider's privacy policies here:

How this affects you

If you’re a Gmail user, Google scans all of your sent and received messages, extracts keywords that they think are relevant to you, and then uses that data to target you with ads.

And if you’re not a Gmail user but have at some point sent an email to someone that uses Gmail, Google has scanned your message, extracted keywords, and used that data to serve ads to the recipient of your email.

Even if you’ve never created an account with Google or Gmail—and therefore never agreed to Google’s terms of use and privacy policies—but simply sent an email to someone with a Gmail address, Google has scanned your message and extracted keywords for the purposes of displaying targeted ads to the recipient.

GfK Roper study on email privacy


of Americans disapprove of email providers scanning personal emails in order to target online advertisements. See the latest poll.

According to a 2012 study by Mozaic Group:


of Gmail users are unaware their email's words are used to display ads


of Gmail users believe using email content to serve ads is an invasion of their privacy


of Gmail users said they would consider or definitely switch from Gmail because of this practice


of Gmail users believe email is private


of Gmail users believe Google should not use an email's content to deliver ads

An independent market research company, Mozaic Group (www.mozaic-group.com) conducted a study using a representative online sample of 2,000 Gmail users, ages 18 and older from across the US. The participants were randomly chosen from a third-party panel and were required to use Gmail via a web browser on their computer at least a few times a month. Participants were not aware that the research was commissioned by Microsoft.

A 2010 study by Aleecia M. McDonald and Lorrie Faith Cranor of Carnegie Mellon asked 314 US‑based participants:

"Imagine you are online and your email provider displays ads to you. The ads are based on what you write in email you send, as well as email you receive."

PDF: Carnegie Mellon study

Answer if you think this is something that could happen or will not happen.

This happens a lot right now

This happens a little right now

This does not happen now but could happen in the future

This will never happen because it is not allowed by law

This will never happen because there would be consumer backlash against companies that engaged in this practice






How would you feel about this practice?

“No one should use data from email
because it is private like postal mail.”

“It's creepy to have ads
based on my emails.”

“Glad to have relevant ads about things
I am interested in instead of random ads.”

“It's ok as long as the email service is free.”

Sign the petition Try Outlook.com
PDF: How Google does it

From Google to Scroogle

"We know that some people have raised privacy concerns, primarily over Gmail's targeted ads, which could lead to negative perceptions about Google. However, we believe Gmail protects a user's privacy."

SEC Filing

"What Gmail has always done, from the very beginning, was to take the same systems that scan an email in order to identify, for example, whether it's spam and should go in the spam folder and the user shouldn't be bothered with it, to have those very same systems trigger off of keywords to show an ad that might be relevant."

—Google privacy lead Dr. Alma Whitten in a Congressional privacy hearing

2010 Consumer Privacy Hearing Transcript


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More ways you get Scroogled!

Scroogled pronunciation

Word Origin:

Google’s ongoing use of invasive tactics to maximize their advertising profits.


2. The Google practice of going through your personal Gmail for keywords so they can target you with ads.

See also: bug; eavesdrop; eyeball; listen in; observe; peek; peer; pry; scan; snoop; spy; tap; wiretap.

Sample sentence:

"Even if you’re not a Gmail user, you get Scroogled because Google goes through your personal emails sent to someone using Gmail."