If you follow tech news, you’ve probably heard that Google are calling Microsoft out on copying their search results. You can read about the dispute from Google’s point of view and Microsoft’s response to the accusation.

The thing that bothers me most about this isn’t that Microsoft appear to be copying Google to improve Bing’s search results. It’s how Microsoft have been getting the data, if Google are right. And in fact, this has opened my eyes to how much of our data Microsoft collect (if you’re interested, read their privacy policies – they have many).

Google believe that Microsoft are using some combination of Internet Explorer 8’s Suggested Sites feature and the Bing toolbar’s Customer Experience Improvement Program.

Having read through Internet Explorer’s privacy policy, the following jumps out at me:

You can choose to pause or stop the Suggested Sites feature from sending your web browsing history to Microsoft at any time. You can also delete individual entries from your history at any time. Deleted entries will not be used to provide you suggestions for other websites, although they will be retained by Microsoft for a period of time to help improve our products and services, including this feature. Any websites you visit while InPrivate Browsing is active will not be sent to Microsoft.

The information we collect from you will be used by Microsoft and its controlled subsidiaries and affiliates to enable the features you are using and provide the service(s) or carry out the transaction(s) you have requested or authorized. It may also be used to analyze and improve Microsoft products and services.

So to be fair, Microsoft do state in the privacy policy that information gathered by one of their tools/features can be stored and used to improve any of their services or software. However, this is buried right near the end of the privacy policy. It is my opinion these statements should be right near the top, as I for one find this more relevant information than that preceding it.

While in legal terms Microsoft are, from a customer’s point of view, doing nothing wrong as far as I can see (whether or not Google have any legal grounds here if they are right is another matter), I think it is unethical and more than a bit underhanded to store data in relation to one tool then use that data for something else.

Perhaps this is just me being anti-Microsoft. I like their products, because they are good, but as an entity Microsoft seems to have no care for their customers or being ethical. In fact, having read through some of their other privacy policies now too, I’m quite horrified by the amount of data they store, even if it isn’t personally identifiable (and even that’s not guaranteed, but they do, apparently, at least try to filter out such information).

I’m going to stick in Google’s boat for now. I don’t think they are vindictive enough to do click-fraud as Microsoft are claiming. Unless, perhaps, they have an employee with a grudge against Microsoft who subsequently came up with an elaborate scheme to frame Bing. Keeping a job at Google vs. sticking it to Microsoft could actually be a tough choice!

😉

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    2 comments

    • Google is such a powerful company. I don’t see them losing to another company anytime soon.

    • Yes it’s not surprising that Microsoft collect this browsing data and use it across all the services; Google do it too (and more, probably, seeing as they’re the ones putting ads on every page!). It’s standard practice… it’s just how they make ads personalised. Ya can always get away from this with the opt-outs with google and the inPrivate, etc 🙂

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