Microsoft CEO Says Google Reads Your Mail

    October 8, 2007

Ask an average guy on the street, and, assuming he’s not a conspiracy theorist, he’ll tell you that the only people who read an email are listed in the “to” and “from” address boxes.  But Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer has stated that information sent through Gmail is read by Google, too.

Microsoft CEO Says Google Reads Your Mail
Microsoft CEO Says Google Reads Your Mail

Ballmer, who was recently in the news over his “Facebook is a fad” comments, took his latest shot during a Microsoft Startup Accelerator Programme speech:

Our Windows Live Hotmail, in and of itself, doesn’t generate much ad revenue.  So we’ve had to put, essentially, a whole portal around it because the traffic around it is very valuable but it’s not very easily monetized in the context of mail.

Google’s had the same experience, even though they read your mail and we don’t.  That’s just a factual statement, not even to be pejorative.  The theory was if we read your mail, if somebody read your mail, they would know what to talk to you about.  It’s not working out as brilliantly as the concept was laid out.

That quote comes courtesy of Ed Moltzen, who made a video of the event available.  You’d expect that Google might have come back with a quick response – the proverbial peanut gallery attacks the company all the time, but Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, has a rather high profile.  Mountain View has not yet said anything, however.

Is Google just holding its head high?  Or is there something to Ballmer’s claim?  We’ll keep our eyes and ears open as privacy advocates take an intense interest in the matter.