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New To The US: Microsoft Uses Privacy As A Selling Tool

Publication Date: 
February 02, 2012
Source: 94.9 FM Radio
Sara Lerner

Director of Privacy and Robotics at the Center for Internet and Society M. Ryan Calo spoke with Sara Lerner of KUOW 94.9 FM, a radio station in Seattle, on Microsoft's focus on privacy concerns in its advertising strategy.

Yesterday, Microsoft placed ads in newspapers across the country touting its efforts to protect consumer's privacy. As KUOW's Sara Lerner reports, privacy as a competitive selling point is brand new, at least in the United States.


The Microsoft ads in papers, including The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, directly attack Google for recently altering its privacy guidelines.

Google says it's trying to make its policies more uniform. The ads say Google users should be aware of Google's "free services," implying they aren't actually free because users are giving up information when they use the products.


Ryan Calo of Stanford's Center for Internet and Society was surprised by these ads —

Calo: " — But I was happily surprised. I think for years, although companies were talking about how privacy was important to them and consumer trust was essential, privacy really has not been used as competitive differentiator until recent years."

Among the critics of Google's brand new privacy policy are eight members of the US House, who sent a letter to Google's CEO asking for more information about it.

But Calo says both companies have dealt with Federal Trade Commission scrutiny over privacy. And Calo says Google has been innovative about showing users how their data is being used. In some cases, allowed users more intuitive ways to see with whom they're sharing information, like in Google's social network, Google Plus.

Calo says using privacy as a selling point is good for the consumer. And Microsoft has never done so before, except in Europe.

Calo: "Microsoft has been more vocal in Europe about importance of privacy, which makes sense suncee it seems to be more on the radar of an average European than an average American."

But he says recently, as evidenced by this latest sparring, the US is catching up in terms of public awareness about privacy concerns.