Valentine’s Day ‘Scroogled’ Video Has A Google ‘Cyborg’ Reading People’s Mail

By: Chris Crum - February 14, 2013

As you may know, Microsoft recently resurrected its “Scroogled” campaign against Google, attacking Gmail in the latest round. More on the campaign here, but the premise is basically that Microsoft wants Gmail users to be aware that Google serves them ads based on the content of their messages. They’re framing it as a privacy issue, though Google doesn’t actually have humans going through your email. It’s all algorithmic.

We talked about the whole thing with Microsoft’s Stefan Weitz more in depth here.

Anyhow today is Valentine’s Day, and Microsoft has put out a new Scroogled video for the occasion. The video shows a mail man (or a “Gmail” man) opening letters and reading them (again, Google has no humans reading your messages). It also shows an mail man delivering the mail without opening letters and reading them.

Update: As Weitz points out in the comments, the Gmail ‘Man’ is supposed to be a cyborg. According to Wikipedia, a cyborg would be a being with both organic and cybernetic parts.

It’s unclear how many non-keyword based ads the guy delivers.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

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  • Stefan Weitz

    To be clear, we tried to make the GMail man into a cyborg (hence the laser eye scanning). Happy VDay! 😉

    • Chris Crum

      Ah, okay. I’ll update. So only part human? 😉

      • Matt Wallaert

        (NOTE: I work as a behavioral scientist at Bing, so please view my comments accordingly.)

        Chris, are you really arguing with Stefan about his use of “cyborg”? =]

        It is tremendously hard to message things visually in a way that is both engaging and easy for everyday people to understand. The red eyes and robotic sounds are an attempt to make it clear that the scanning isn’t actually by a human reading your mail, but when we discussed using an actual computer with non-tech people, they lost the thread of the overall message.

        Remember that this is largely a campaign about raising awareness. 70% of people don’t know Google scans mail to target ads, and 90% think it shouldn’t be allowed. We forget sometimes that those who work with technology professionally don’t always have the same views as everyday people. And we shouldn’t get to make decisions wholesale for everyone else. Free options that don’t scan emails exist (yes, like and people should know they exist and be allowed to choose.

        • Chris Crum

          Not arguing at all. I just think cyborgs are generally thought of as part human/part machine. I understand the message of the campaign, but I also think it’s important that people aren’t led to believe that Google has people actually reading their emails when they don’t. Despite the laser in the video, it makes it feel like there is someone looking at the mail.

          • Matt Wallaert

            Perhaps I should have said “teasing”; no disrespect intended. I entirely get your argument, it just ends very hard to visually communicate machine reading and not end up with a very complex, inaccessible video.

          • Chris Crum

            No offense taken. I appreciate your comment. Maybe a terminator-style endoskeleton without the human skin?

          • Matt Wallaert

            Yeah, because NOBODY would ever accuse us of unfair representation if we showed Google as a Terminator. =]

          • Chris Crum

            Maybe a more friendly robot? Something along the lines of a Conky from Pee Wee’s Playhouse perhaps?

        • pari


          Does MS not do any targeted ads per se? MS does not scan the e-mail for spam/malicious contents?

          MS, yes the bing team made a big argument about Google unified policy change and yet MS/bing team followed quietly along the lines of unified policy change.