New GMail Ads Accused of Violating CAN-SPAM ActWritten by Sue Walsh on August 16, 2013
Google recently rolled out a major update to its popular GMail email service. The new
interface features a tabbed inbox that separates emails into one of several categories including Social, Forums, Updates and Promotions, and that Promotions tab is sparking a lot of debate over Google’s practice of putting ads at the top of the message list there.
The problem is that those ads look like actual emails, including the ability to forward them to others. The question some security and e-marketing experts have however is whether those ads conform to CAN-SPAM requirements and provide a way for users to unsubscribe from them. Since they are formatted to look exactly like emails, legally they are supposed to-but would Google’s advertisers appreciate users being able to do so? There’s no clear answer yet and that’s why some security experts are saying the company may very well be in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. The accusations are being fueled by the latest attack ad in Microsoft’s anti-Google campaign known as “Scroogled”. The campaign was launched last year and while it’s supposed to be ad campaign for the Outlook.com email service, a direct competitor to GMail, it’s become almost a bully pulpit for Microsoft as the ads spend most of their time attacking GMail rather than marketing Outlook.com.
Google hasn’t had any comment on the debate yet. It will be interesting to see what, if anything comes of it. Do you use GMail? Do you find the ads in the Promotions tab misleading? Have you tried to unsubscribe from them? Please share your experiences with us and let us know if you think this is a legit concern or much ado about nothing.