With a new print ad campaign titled "Putting People First," Microsoft is hoping to capitalize on the backlash against Google's privacy changes by using the controversy to entice users to its portfolio of internet services.
The ads, announced in a Microsoft blog post titled "Gone Google? Got Concerns? We Have Alternatives," will run for three days in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
The ad, which can be found online here, reads in part:
Google is in the process of making some unpopular changes to some of their most popular products. Those changes, cloaked in language like "transparency," "simplicity," and "consistency," are really about one thing: making it easier for Google to connect the dots between everything you search, send, say while using one of their services.
According to The Huffington Post's Bianca Bosker, combining information about a user's preferences and activity from multiple services also makes Google users much more valuable to advertisers, since this mass of information will allow them to target ads with more precision.
Privacy advocates have found cause for concern in these changes, especially due to users' inability to opt-out. Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer wrote in a statement that these mandatory changes are "frustrating and a little frightening," especially for kids and teenagers.
The ads are reportedly part of Google's "Good To Know" campaign, which aims to dispel Google users' concerns about how their personal information is used. According to Ad Age, the simple advertisements emphasize that the more user information Google has, the easier, quicker and better people's searches will be. Ad Age calls this a "value exchange." Time will tell whether users think it's worth the price.
Indeed, Google has come under increased scrutiny from users, competitors and lawmakers since January 10, when the company unveiled Search Plus Your World, a search feature that pulls public posts and data from users' Google+ networks into regular Google web searches.
Almost immediately the internet cried foul, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center sending a letter of complaint to the FTC on January 12. The letter, which quotes an article on Search Engine Land, reads in part:
[A]lthough the data from a user's Google+ contacts is not displayed publicly, Google's changes make the personal data of users more accessible. Users might, for example, 'com[e] across an unexpected photo or post from a friend, [and] might reshare it to the world' or '[t]hings that people may have forgotten sharing with others will begin to show up serendipitously through ordinary Google searches.'
On January 13, unnamed sources told Bloomberg that the Federal Trade Commission, which is already investigating claims that Google favored its own properties in search results, may have expanded its investigation to include the Search Plus Your World feature.