Home [UPDATED] Microsoft Takes Advantage of Google’s Bad Press

[UPDATED] Microsoft Takes Advantage of Google’s Bad Press

Microsoft gloated on its official blog today about the oodles of coverage of Google’s new privacy policy. The post uses the word “discussion,” but it only linked to the vigorous freak-outs in which many sites engaged. It mentions “concerns and worries” and “lack of choice,” but it never explains what Microsoft is talking about. The central thesis is that “Google… made it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information.”

The post then goes straight to the list of Microsoft products to which Google users can switch: Hotmail, Bing, Office 365 and Internet Explorer. How are these products better for users’ “own information” than Google? Well, they don’t read it to target ads. What else do they do with users’ information? No explanation here. “We’ve left the light on for you. :)”, VP Frank X. Shaw writes. You have to hand it to Microsoft for being so forward, but by rushing to the sales pitch, this post misses a huge opportunity to be informative. Is that because the information might be more complex than Microsoft (and the press) would care to admit?

At the bottom of the post, readers can view a new ad from Microsoft‘s print campaign called “Putting people first.” The ad says Google’s privacy changes are “cloaked” in nice language, but they’re “really about one thing: making it easier for Google to connect the dots between everything you search, send, say or stream while using one of their services.”

It then goes on to explain to the public that the reason people get to use Google’s suite of products for free is because Google uses the data to target them for ads. What an astonishing revelation. Microsoft gives the disclaimer every critic of free Web services uses before assailing a new, user-unfriendly change: “To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to improve the quality of an advertising product. But, that effort needs to be balanced with continuing to meet the needs and interests of users.”

That’s a great talking point. But Google’s response to this campaign is so easy to imagine. “We rewrote our 60 privacy policies to be one clear, human-readable document. This policy doesn’t collect any new information.” Or how about this one? “Google users can export all their data and be gone forever. How’s that for ‘maintaining control of your personal information?’ Hey Microsoft, how’s your partner, Facebook, doing with that?”

The blogosphere won’t make that argument for Google. It has to pay for an expensive campaign, just like Microsoft is.

UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: Google has posted a response. It’s a simple checklist of myths versus facts, and it saves the deepest cut for last:

We’ve always believed the facts should inform our marketing–and that it’s best to focus on our users rather than negative attacks on other companies.

Myth: Microsoft’s approach to privacy is better than Google’s. [Microsoft]

Fact: We don’t make judgments about other people’s policies or controls. But our industry-leading Privacy Dashboard, Ads Preferences Manager and data liberation efforts enable you to understand and control the information we collect and how we use it–and we’ve simplified our privacy policy to make it easier to understand. Microsoft has no data liberation effort or Dashboard-like hub for users. Their privacy policy states that “information collected through one Microsoft service may be combined with information obtained through other Microsoft services.”

The sad thing is, there’s plenty to critize about Google’s new direction and its impact on users, it’s just too complicated (and politically sensitive) for Microsoft to explain in an ad.

This is just a shady PR attack by Microsoft, and the press is buying it. Microsoft doesn’t deign to inform its readers about Google’s policy. It uses a few kumbaya words up front and then gets straight to the point: it’s BAAAAD. But we’ve seen less spun talking points in the Republican presidential debates.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

What do you think of Google’s new privacy policy? Sound off in the comments.

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