Google has received a lot of flak with regards to how it scans user email in order to target them with ads, with Microsoft becoming the biggest critic. That company has even gone as far as to dedicate a website and advertising campaign calling-out the behavior, labeling it "scroogling", and pushing the tagline, "Don't get scroogled!" Too bad it didn't get Disney's permission to implement a Scroogled McDuck character into the campaign, huh?
Well, as it turns out, while Microsoft and others find the act of scanning people's email and delivering contextual ads to be a breach of privacy and simply not cool, the United States Patent & Trademark Office considers it to be fine, proven by a new patent granted to to the Internet mega-firm this week.
The official patent is, "System and method for targeting information based on message content in a reply", and it encompasses exactly what we've seen Google do for a while - except lately, its targeted ads actually slip into your inbox, rather than just stick to the side.
Admittedly, I rarely notice ads even to the side of my Gmail (my primary email client), and to date, I've only received a single targeted ad inside of my inbox itself (I didn't even note what it was - it was just instinct to delete it). While I haven't considered Google's ads to be much of a hassle, it's easy to understand why people don't like the fact that the ads are conjured up based on your emails to other people. Despite no one in person scanning your email, it's still not a great feeling to know that your actual privacy is very limited when using Gmail (or most Google services, for that matter).