Microsoft wasted no time swiping at Google over its recent privacy controversy. Starting on 1 March, Google will fold 60 of its 70 existing product-privacy policies into one blanket policy from which users cannot opt out.
Under the auspices of its new policy, the search-engine giant will also treat any user with a Google account who signs into search, YouTube, Gmail or its other services as the same individual across those services – and it might share data between those services.
Pennies for your thoughts
Privacy advocates have argued that Google’s latest moves trample user privacy rights, all in the name of allowing the company to compete better with Facebook for advertising dollars. Google has pushed back, arguing that its new policy is more transparent. “Our approach to privacy has not changed,” Pablo Chavez, Google’s director of Public Policy, argued in a letter to Congress. “Google users continue to have choice and control.”
“The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information,” Frank Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications for Microsoft, wrote in a posting on The Official Microsoft Blog. “If the news about Google has you feeling frustrated, or concerned, or both, we have some great, award-winning alternatives.”
Those alternatives include Hotmail, Bing, the cloud-based Office 365 and Internet Explorer. In addition, Microsoft will run advertisements advocating these services in major US newspapers this week.
While that might come off as mean-spirited, there are reasons behind Microsoft’s urge to dent Google. Despite some incremental market-share gains, Bing continues to lag Google in search engines, and Windows Phone trails both Google Android and Apple’s iOS in mobile operating systems. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer franchise faces a challenge from Google’s Chrome browser. While Office continues to dominate the market for productivity software, Google Apps has made some inroads among businesses.
Combined, that is more than enough reason for Microsoft to launch opportunistic attacks against any one of Google’s policies or products. And like any good battle between superpowers, it then becomes a question of how Google will respond.