The backstory: Google Jan. 24 said it will fold 60 privacy policies into one blanket policy, treating any user with a Google account who signs into search, YouTube, Gmail or other Google services as the same individual across those services. Google will also share data between those services.
Congress is concerned about the changes, which will help Google improve ad targeting in its software to compete better with Facebook in the forthcoming social media war. Facebook filed a $5 billion public offering Feb. 1.
Frank Shaw, director of corporate communications for Microsoft, argued in a corporate blog post that Google’s privacy changes make it harder for people to control their own information. Shaw is running an ad campaign blasting Google’s changes in some major newspapers this week.
Google responded that its privacy controls have not changed.
“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,” wrote Betsy Masiello, a Google policy manager.
Ironically, Microsoft offers a soft landing for users who do choose to shuttle their data from Google applications, and Shaw reminded consumers about the alternatives.
He suggested that Google users concerned about the company’s policy changes could switch to Microsoft’s Hotmail Webmail app, Bing search engine, Office 365 online collaboration suite and Internet Explorer browser.
Google also denied that it is changing its privacy practices to make its data more valuable for advertisers.
Instead, Google said the vast majority of the product personalization Google does is unrelated to ads and that the move is about making its services better for users. This is misleading, as Google has made no secret of that fact that streamlined privacy policies will improve its ads.
Google also denied Microsoft’s assertion that it is reading users’ email, arguing that its servers scan messages to “get rid of spam and malware, as well as show ads that are relevant to you.”
“If you haven’t tried these Microsoft products and services, give ’em a shot,” Shaw wrote. “If you’ve tried them before and moved on, come on back. We’ve left the light on for you.”
Updated: Removed an incorrect citation Google made of a FairSearch.org statement.