Google Fights Back Against Microsoft’s “Putting People First” Ad Campaign


Earlier this morning, Microsoft announced a new campaign that would highlight how Microsoft was a better option for disgruntled Google users looking for a place that would provide them with better privacy controls. Now, Google is fighting back. On its Public Policy Blog, the company just posted a number of attempts to rebut Microsoft's arguments against Google's approach to privacy. While Google says that it has "always believed the facts should inform our marketing—and that it’s best to focus on our users rather than negative attacks on other companies," it's clear that Microsoft's campaign rattled some nerves in Mountain View.

Here are a few examples from Google's list: [list]

  • 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. [/list] [list]
  • 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.[/list]

Google also takes on other topics like Microsoft's assertion last year that its apps weren't certified for government use.

The last item on its list, though, is probably the most interesting one:

"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.”

In many ways, Google has a point here, as the company has indeed worked hard to provide its users with privacy controls and the ability to use tools like Takeout to "liberate" their data.

What's most interesting about this fight to me, though, isn't so much the back and forth between the two companies, but the fact that Microsoft is suddenly in a position where it feels like it has the upper hand and can criticize Google without having to fear a major backlash. Google's recent policy changes were not very popular with pundits and users alike, so Microsoft clearly thought it could attack Google directly with these ads.

It'll be interesting to see how Microsoft will react to this now.


      11:29 am

      Khula Project Wants to Make Privacy Policies Readable


      Privacy policies and terms of service policies are generally so long and full of legal jargon that few users ever bother to read them. There are, of course, some notable exception to this and even Facebook, which regularly finds itself in the privacy spotlight, is making stride to improve how it communicates its policies. The average privacy policy is a mess, though. The Khula Project wants to create tools that will allow companies to write easy-to-read privacy policies, similar to what Creative Commons has done for copyright licenses.

      This project – which is currently looking for funding through Kickstarter – argues that simplified privacy policies will allow cloud services to build user trust. This is definitely an ambitious project. Given their importance as legal documents, there are reasons why they are so complex and why a search for “readable privacy policies” returns more results for machine-readable than human-readable ones.

      At first, Khula will work with the individual companies and will create tailor-made licenses for them at first. In the long run, though, the idea is to develop a “human-readable privacy policy creator.” This tool will then allow companies to customize their policies themselves.

      Privacy Should Not Be a Complicated Issue

      As the project’s founder Tyler Baird told me by email earlier this week, “Privacy should not be a complicated issue.” Right now, understanding a company’s privacy policies, however, is too complicated for most users. Hopefully this project – and others like it – will help propel the movement toward human-readable privacy policies forward.

      4:34 pm