Commentary

Microsoft: How Can You Trust Google For Anything?

Google's decision to share app purchasers' data with developers hasn't just sparked a congressional inquiry and a wave of bad publicity. It's also given Microsoft fodder to continue its attacks on Google.

Microsoft today unveiled the latest installment in its “Scroogled” campaign, which presents Google as a threat to privacy. The new attack ad centers on Google's app-store policy.

“When you buy an Android app from the Google app store, they give the app maker your full name, email address and the neighborhood where you live. This occurs without clear warning every single time you buy an app,” Microsoft informs visitors to its Scroogled site. “If you can't trust Google's app store, how can you trust them for anything?”

Microsoft adds, “It's not necessary for an app maker to have your full name, email address and neighborhood, so Windows Phone Store refrains from passing on this sensitive information.”

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Microsoft's move comes nearly two months after Australian developer Dan Nolan surprised many industry observers by reporting that Google routinely shares app buyers' personal information with developers.

Nolan saw Google's actions as a “massive” privacy breach -- and some observers agree with him. For its part, Google says it intentionally designed its app platform to share this information. That's because Google's platform merely facilitates transactions between app buyers and developers; other platforms themselves sell the apps to consumers.

Google is obviously free to pursue a different business model than its competitors. But the search company's method of informing users about its practice leaves something to be desired. Instead of explicitly telling app purchasers that their data would be transferred to developers, the company says it shares personal information “as necessary” to process transactions.

Microsoft isn't the only one to criticize Google for blindsiding consumers with its practices. The group Consumer Watchdog, a frequent Google critic, asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

At the same time, Microsoft itself has also been accused of violating smartphone users' privacy. The company currently is facing a lawsuit alleging that it collect information about the location of Windows Phone 7 users who activate their camera phones, even when the users have said they don't want to be tracked.

“Microsoft intentionally designed its Windows Phone camera application to thwart consumers’ ability to prohibit the collection of their geolocation information, in blatant disregard of its users’ privacy rights and federal law,” consumer Rebecca Cousineau alleges in an amended complaint that she filed today in the case. That lawsuit is pending in federal district court in Seattle.

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