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Data Privacy and Security

Google patents 'scroogling,' but it's not all about ads

Rest easy, suspicious Web dwellers: The U.S. Patent Office now officially guarantees that if you're going to get "scroogled" by anybody, you're going to get scroogled by Google.

What's "scroogling," you ask? You obviously haven't been paying attention to Microsoft's mammoth smear campaign! In any case, the (very, very biased) definition at right comes courtesy of the current Scroogled campaign, which promotes Bing for Schools.

The new patent, first noticed by GeekWire, awards Google the rights to a "System and method for targeting information based on message content in a reply"--in other words, automatically scraping the content of your communications and serving up specific information related to what you're talking about. In other other words, it's a patent that lets Google display the tailored ads seen on Gmail and other services.

Dishing out targeted information is good for more than just ads, though. The patent makes pains to point out the beneficial aspects of Google's data scraping. Numerous drawings included with the patent hold examples of helpful contextual information that can be offered after scraping the content of a message, such offers to add travel details to your calendar or search for local weather or hotels when you're sent a trip itinerary.

Likewise, the automatic use of targeted, contextual information lies at the heart of the entire Google Now experience.

Messing with Microsoft

Google, naturally, never calls the practice "scroogling" in its patent (though, how awesome would that have been?). However, in an amusing twist, a drawing that details how taliored ads can be dished out in an email inbox uses "Get prices for MS Access" as its advertising example.

Microsoft took Google to task over Gmail ads in a hilarious Scroogled campaign in February. Here's what Google had to say in response at the time:

Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge. We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant... No humans read your email or Google account information in order to show you advertisements or related information.

And fear not, cat fight fans: While Google may have won this patent for the technical aspects of information targeting, Microsoft is still free to sling the word "scroogled" far and wide--in fact, don't be surprised to see the PR folks in Redmond jump all over this.

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