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This article was published on February 1, 2012

Google responds to Microsoft’s criticism of its privacy policy changes

Google responds to Microsoft’s criticism of its privacy policy changes
Surat Lozowick
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Surat Lozowick

Surat Lozowick is a writer living in San Francisco, interested in how technology and the Internet affect our lives. He also writes on his pe Surat Lozowick is a writer living in San Francisco, interested in how technology and the Internet affect our lives. He also writes on his personal blog.

Earlier today, Microsoft took the overblown controversy around Google’s privacy policy changes (which are mostly harmless) as as an opportunity to criticize Google and offer its own products as alternatives, announcing an ad campaign set to run in newspapers this week.

Google has quickly responded with a blog post “Busting myths about our approach to privacy.” The post refutes claims made by Microsoft in today’s post and other places (including the “Gmail man” video from last year), as well as responding to the government concerns we covered and a report by FairSearch.

Here are all the “myths” the company’s Policy Manager Betsy Masiello refutes:

  • Myth: In 2011, Google made $36 billion selling information about users like you. [Fairsearch – PDF]
  • Fact: Google does not sell, trade or rent personally identifiable user information. Advertisers can run ads on Google that are matched to search keywords, or use our services to show ads based on anonymous data, such as your location or the websites you’ve visited.
  • Myth: Google’s Privacy Policy changes make it harder for users to control their personal information. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: Our privacy controls have not changed. Period. Our users can: edit and delete their search history; edit and delete their YouTube viewing history; use many of our services signed in or out; use Google Dashboard and our Ads Preferences Manager to see what data we collect and manage the way it is used; and take advantage of our data liberation efforts if they want to remove information from our services.
  • Myth: Google is changing our Privacy Policy to make the data we collect more valuable to advertisers. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: The vast majority of the product personalization Google does is unrelated to ads—it’s about making our services better for users. Today a signed-in user can instantly add an appointment to their Calendar when a message in Gmail looks like it’s about a meeting, or read Google Docs within their email.
  • Myth: Google reads your email. [Microsoft]
  • Fact: 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.
  • Myth: Google’s Privacy Policy changes jeopardize government information in Google Apps. []
  • Fact: Our new Privacy Policy does not change our contractual agreements, which have always superseded Google’s Privacy Policy for enterprise customers.
  • 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.”

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

Earlier today, ex-Googler Pedro Dias tweeted about Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw’s posts on Twitter, criticizing a focus on badmouthing competitors (Shaw also wrote the post about Google’s privacy policy), with Shaw responding:

Privacy is a key issues for cloud apps, and this will likely not be the last time Google and Microsoft spar over their policies, especially with a new version of Microsoft Office with updates to its cloud apps coming later this year.

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