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Microsoft reminds us there are Google ‘alternatives’ in new ad; [UPDATE: Google responds with some myth-busting]

microsoft_vs_googleGoogle has taken quite a beating for its privacy policy change. After combining its myriad of terms of service into a single sign-on, more-unified system, users and advocates cried foul. The changes, while simplifying things when it comes to what and how much users are agreeing to, also opened up some new possibilities for predictive advertising.

Whenever a company as big and far-reaching as Google makes such a core switch, there’s bound to be backlash. In reality, Google’s focus and service hasn’t changed; it’s still a targeted ad company, and it still has Web apps at your disposal — and you can choose what you do and do not use (for the most part—Google does rope you into G+ if you get a Gmail account now, but you can remain entirely inactive and un-findable on the site).

While most of the brouhaha over the announcement has died down, one of Google’s competitors wants to refuel that fire. Microsoft announced in a blog post that it’s planning a series of ads in major newspapers this week that will “remind people” of Google alternatives, like Hotmail, Bing, and Internet Explorer.

“The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information,” Microsoft VP of corporate communications Frank X. Shaw says. “We take a different approach — we work to keep you safe and secure online, to give you control over your data, and to offer you the choice of saving your information on your hard drive, in the cloud, or on both.”

Copy of the ad is available after the break, and pinpoints Google as a source of Internet privacy problems.

You can’t fault Microsoft for trying to capitalize on a major competitor’s apparent weakness, but is it too late? So much of the early-fury has quieted, and Google has done an admirable job of keeping its users in the loop regarding the new policy. But Microsoft has long been seen as the old purveyor of the tech scene, the one that isn’t quite on top of trends, somewhat stagnant, and unengaged with users. Now it’s trying to shed that image and pass that torch onto Google. The two companies are beginning to have more and more in common: they both have hands in every pot, and Google is trying to pull in more enterprise and Microsoft more casual users.

It’s sort of a stretch on Microsoft’s part, but not an entirely useless move. In other Microsoft news, the Redmond-based company is be making some serious job cuts to its marketing department that will affect the Windows, Office, Server and Tools, Online Services, and Windows Phone teams. Microsoft’s statement (via Forbes) on the layoffs:

“Given the rapid changes in technology and the shifts in how our customers connect with Microsoft, great marketing is more important than ever t o Microsoft’s future success. We’re taking steps to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our marketing, and to strengthen career paths for marketers at Microsoft. Some of these changes involved the reduction of a small percentage of marketing positions, to better align our resources with our business needs and clarify roles across the marketing function.”

Less marketing spin, more innovation investment? We can only hope. 

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[Update]

Google global communications and public affairs senior manager Chris Gaither got in touch with us about Google’s response to Microsoft’s ad. In a blog post, Google addresses what it says are a number of myths being spread. See below or click here to see the blog post

A number of myths are being spread about Google’s approach to privacy. We just wanted to give you the facts.

  • 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. [SafeGov.org]
  • 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—and that it’s best to focus on our users rather than negative attacks on other companies. Onwards!