Microsoft Ads Bid to Capitalize on Google Privacy Backlash

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), aiming to take advantage of a backlash against Google Inc. (GOOG)’s policy changes, is rolling out new ads that say its rival is risking users’ privacy to squeeze more revenue out of them.

The three-day print campaign started today in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today. A blog posting with the title “Gone Google? Got Concerns? We Have Alternatives,” written by Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw, was posted on the company’s website.

Google tweaked its Internet search engine last month to elevate results from friends and its Google+ social network, irking some rivals, partners and users. Separately, Google altered its privacy guidelines to create a uniform set of policies for more than 60 products, unleashing a fresh wave of criticism from regulators and consumer advocates concerned the company isn’t protecting the user information it collects.

“Every data point Google collects and connects to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser,” Microsoft says in the first ad of the new campaign.

The ad also tells readers that “if these changes rub you the wrong way, please consider using our portfolio of award- winning products and services.” The Redmond, Washington-based company cited its Hotmail e-mail service, Bing search engine, Office 365 for online word-processing and spreadsheets, and the Internet Explorer browser.

Harder to Control?

“The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information,” Shaw wrote in his post. “We take a different approach.”

Google, based in Mountain View, California, responded to the remarks today in its own blog posting.

“Fact: Our privacy controls have not changed. Period,” the company said. “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.”

The company also said Microsoft’s assertion that the privacy changes were designed to squeeze more ad revenue from users is false.

“The vast majority of the product personalization Google does is unrelated to ads -- it’s about making our services better for users,” Google said.

Social Data

Google’s search changes were designed to include more data from a user’s social circle in query results. That helps the company promote Google+ and counter features from Microsoft’s Bing search, which displays data from Facebook Inc. Facebook has more than 800 million members, compared with 90 million for Google+.

While Google remains dominant in Internet searches, Microsoft has gained ground. In December, Bing had 15.1 percent of U.S. Internet queries, up from 13.9 percent last March, according to ComScore Inc.

Google said the privacy-policy changes were meant to make the procedures simpler by having a consistent approach across its services. Data-protection agencies in Ireland and France have said they will assess the changes.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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