Microsoft have restarted their "Scroogled" campaign, hitting out at Google for sharing personal information of Play Store customers. Every time a user purchases an application from the Play Store, which runs on Android, Google shares the personal information about them with the app's developer, according to Microsoft. Previously, Microsoft have attacked Google for scanning Gmail email content to target adverts, as well as Google's introduction of a policy that requires traders to pay to appear in Google's Shopping services. Greg Sullivan, Microsoft's senior manager for Windows Phone, told the Associated Press: "We think we have a better alternative that doesn't do these kinds of nefarious things," referring to Google's practises. And Sullivan isn't alone. DuckDuckGo founder, Gabriel Weinberg, told Neowin that there is a "natural conflict" between Google's business practices and user privacy.
Microsoft's new advertising push could backfire, however. While the ads paint Google in a negative light, many won't be tempted to switch because they feel Bing doesn't offer the same quality of results as Google. PageRank, which powers Google, has taken years to perfect and delivers the best results on the web, one of the reasons users keep returning. "It's always the underdog that does negative advertising like this, and there is no doubt that Microsoft is now the underdog," said Jonathan Weber, a consultant at the search firm LunaMetrics. Google has recently been hit with a series of damaging PR nightmares, including a $7 million fine for Street View "snooping," but has not lost any ground in the search engine marketshare stakes.
Microsoft's ads echo the concerns of key watchdogs, who say that Google has a monopoly on search which enables them to act in bad faith, such as ranking their own services above others. Consumer Watchdogs have raised concerns with the FTC about Google's "egregious privacy violation." Google says that sharing sensitive information with app developers "improves" the service. Microsoft claim that they have a better service, and don't share private information. Michael Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of several books about Microsoft, claims that Google is the "biggest challenge that Microsoft has ever had to deal with." Microsoft's Internet divisions have lost over $17.5 billion since 2004, including some $6 billion for aQuantive, an online accounting firm that forced Microsoft into it's first ever loss.
The market capitalisation's of both companies reflect the relative success. Google has risen from a small post-IPO cap of $25 billion to over $255 billion, while Microsoft has dropped from $300 billion to $239 billion.
The "Scroogled" campaign is costing Microsoft millions of dollars, (Microsoft wouldn't supply a figure, but did say the cost would run into the "multimillions.") and isn't endearing them to anyone at Google. According to Microsoft, 117,000 people have signed their e-petition protesting at Google for scanning email content to target ads. However, when that figure is compared to the total 425 million Gmail users, it does pale in comparison. Over 4 million people have visited Scroogled.com, according to Microsoft. According to Alexa, Scroogled.com is receiving around 5,600 daily visitors.
Microsoft "have been playing dirty for a long time. In this instance, they probably sincerely believe this can give them a little marketing edge and help them capitalize on the growing discomfort with the size and influence of Google," said Cusumano. "Nothing is below Microsoft."
Microsoft's latest advert is below: