If you read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times or USA Today in the next three days, you might spot an ad from Microsoft that criticizes Google’s privacy policies and social search feature, Google plus Your World. In short, Microsoft is banking on your irritation with Google to get you to switch to Bing. And I thought the presidential candidates were bad.
In the ad, Microsoft argues that Google is selling out its customers to its advertisers by using personal information to influence the type of advertising each customer sees.
It should be obvious to anyone who uses Google that its business model is based on advertising, not to mention the fact that marketers were collecting personal information on customers long before the Internet existed.
So Microsoft went for the user experience angle. “To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to improve the quality of an advertising product,” the ad continues. “But, that effort needs to be balanced with continuing to meet the needs and interests of users.”
This leads to an invitation to try Microsoft products like Hotmail, Office, Internet Explorer and Bing, where personal information is supposedly much safer. In particular, Internet Explorer has added an “InPrivate” browsing feature that blocks sites from tracking users while they search online. It should be noted that Google Chrome has an identical control called “Incognito Mode,” as does Firefox with “Private Browsing.”
It also raises the point that while Hotmail doesn’t connect to a word processor like Gmail does to Google Docs, at least those documents aren’t being scanned for keywords to show ads. In August 2011, Microsoft ran a video on YouTube about an evil “Gmail Man” who’s “got his nose in every colon and every situation.”
With all the hype surrounding privacy, or lack thereof, the users are the big winners, as now our privacy policies have been dumbed down so that we can read them and our privacy controls have been consolidated into something we can manage in one or two clicks. We are stupid (and by “we,” I mean me) and appreciate the help.
To see a larger version of the ad, click on the image below: