Privacy: Microsoft attacks Google
Microsoft sets up an advertising page criticising Google and their new privacy settings.
The attack was hard and direct. Microsoft is taking advantage of current concerns about Google playing the role of Big Brother to attack their competitor through an advertising series that is visible in a large number of American daily’s (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today; see illustration).
From the 1st of March 2012, new confidentiality settings will be adopted by Google to simplify their services by unifying their policy across all of their offered services. Some people have raised concerns about Google unifying information and cross referencing user’s data from all Google accounts (Google Search, Google+, Gmail, Google Documents, YouTube...).
Google anticipated such criticism and has pointed out, for example, that the protection of user’s private information remains unchanged and no personal information will ever be sold or shared without the user’s authorisation. Microsoft has nevertheless seized on this opportunity to promote their own products.
In their advertising campaign, Microsoft talks of Google’s "unpopular changes" by putting forward this phrase: "every data point Google collects and connects to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser".
Microsoft is attacking Google for targeted advertising, although not condemning the practice, with the software giant claiming that this alignment will make it more difficult for users to control their personal information. Microsoft is playing on users confusion and how the cross referencing of their data affects such services.
Microsoft is also present in the advertising market, but their point of view is that the user’s interests should come first. Microsoft is using this policy change to promote alternatives to Google’s products like their own Bing, Hotmail, Office 365 and Internet Explorer (for its protection against tracking).
Such claims are rather suspicious, with the impression taken from the advertising being that things are like night and day between Google and Microsoft’s services. On All About Microsoft, Frank Shaw, vice-president of Microsoft’s Corporate Communications, declared that there is a "difference between policy and practice": "We don’t read customers mail. We don’t read customer documents. We don’t triangulate YouTube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing."
Google responds to the attack
Google has obviously not let this attack go past without responding to the criticism by clarifying the "myths" like reading peoples emails: "No one reads your email but you. Like most major email providers, our computers scan messages to get rid of spam and malware, as well as show ads that are relevant to you."
Another myth mentioned is that put forward by Microsoft – their privacy protection is superior to Google’s. Google has put into place numerous initiatives for data portability on their dashboard so that you can view data associated to a Google account (in reality, Microsoft offers a similar tool).
To drive the point home, Google has taken an extract from Microsoft’s online privacy rules: "The information we collect may be combined with information obtained from other Microsoft services and other companies."
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