Microsoft Snipes at Google on Privacy

Microsoft wasted no time taking some very public jabs at Google's privacy-policy controversy.

Microsoft wasted no time swiping at Google over its recent privacy controversy.

Starting March 1, Google will fold 60 of its 70 existing product-privacy policies into one blanket policy. 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.

Privacy advocates have argued that Google's latest moves trample user privacy rights, all in the name of allowing the company to better compete 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 Jan. 30 letter to Congress. "Google users continue to have choice and control."

Microsoft, whose unending battle with Google encompasses everything from search engines to smartphone operating systems, wasted little time in prepping its own response.

"The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information," Frank X. Shaw, corporate vice president of corporate communications for Microsoft, wrote in a Feb. 1 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 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's 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.

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