Google started with one nemesis and a simple mantra. It set out to knock Microsoft off its pedestal, and to “do no evil”. Google has grown into the same type of tech giant it set out to destroy, though, and changes in its privacy policies and practices are giving Microsoft an opportunity to turn the tables with a new ad campaign.
Microsoft is running ads across the nation in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today with a new campaign called “Putting People First.” The ads target the recent changes at Google, and suggest that Google is overlooking the best interests of its users, and putting its advertisers first.
A post by Frank X. Shaw on the Official Microsoft Blog explains, “The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information. 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.”
The ads and blog post sum up with a pitch for Microsoft products and services. Instead of Gmail, Google Search, Google Docs, and the Chrome browser, Microsoft thinks users should consider a switch to Hotmail, Bing, Office 365, and Internet Explorer (of course, that will only work for users of Windows as well).
There is one simple fact to remember: if a product or service is free, you are not really the customer. Google is a business, and it doesn’t give away its tools for free out of altruism. The services are free because you are the product, and it wants as much product as possible to sell to the actual customers--the advertisers.
This model is not unique to Google, and Microsoft does it as well in many cases. I’m not judging the concept itself. I’m just pointing out that you should be aware that “free” almost always has hidden costs, and you should look more closely at what the provider is getting out of the arrangement.
The changes at Google are both logical and inevitable. It doesn’t really make sense to manage the privacy of each product or service separately--not for Google, not for users, and not for advertisers. The new system seems to be a much simpler and more efficient way of addressing privacy, even if it does seem to break down some walls and treat the Google-verse as a single entity.
I’m not threatened by the changes at Google, but I do think it's interesting to see how Google has evolved from the small “do-no-evil” David fighting the big, bad Microsoft Goliath, and how it is now a Goliath in its own right with its corporate motives being questioned.
If you are concerned about the privacy changes at Google, feel free to check out the options out there. If you want to look at the Microsoft alternatives, Shaw promises that Microsoft will leave the light on for you.