As I mentioned on this blog yesterday, we’ve placed a series of ads in some major newspapers this week to reach out to people who are concerned or frustrated by some of Google’s recently announced changes to their products and policies. Specifically, we’re doing this to remind those folks that they have a choice when it comes to internet software and services, and we’ve got some great alternatives for them. There was some chatter about this yesterday.

As a follow up, today’s ad (and this post) focus on email. And picking an email service is an important decision, particularly if you care about your online privacy. Why? For a few simple reasons:

· Some email services, like Gmail, actually read the contents of your mail (both sent and received, even if you aren’t a Gmail user but just sending to someone who is) in order to decide what kind of ads to serve up to you. They may call it “scanning” and attempt to equate it with less invasive activities like “checking for spam” but it’s quite different. For you, and the people you send mail to, it’s not spam, it’s personal.

· Further, people tend to stay logged into their email service throughout the day. So all Internet searches you do with Google become tied to that same identity.

· Finally, whenever your Gmail account is logged in, videos you watch on YouTube get connected into that same profile. And it’s worth noting that while Google has recently claimed they “aren’t doing anything new,” it’s clear from their letter to Congress that their new policy allows them to cross-index your YouTube viewing information with your Google search behavior (something their policies explicitly prevented them from doing until these changes).

So what looks on the surface like a simple choice of email provider has an iceberg-size set of implications below it. Since their announced changes provoked a backlash, Google has been trying to characterize them as “simpler,” “easier” and “more consistent.” And finally, they keep trying to assert that they haven’t made it any harder to control what gets collected about you.

Outside of the Plex, that is simply not true. Unless you want to sign out of your mail service every time you do a search, or watch a video.

Contrast that with using Hotmail or Office 365. We’re not using the contents of your mail to deliver ads, nor do we change your search results based on your email content. And because you’re not logged into Gmail, the videos you view on YouTube remain known only to you Smile

As they did yesterday, Google is going to continue to muddy the water here by saying that they offer a variety of privacy controls, and you can use “as much or as little Google as you’d like.”

If you are willing to:

1. Endure the headache of creating and managing multiple dummy accounts

2. Use separate browsers to segregate your communications, social, and video log-ins

3. Sign in and out of your accounts throughout the day to de-couple specific activities as needed.

Or, you can simply switch to Hotmail or Office 365. That sounds a whole lot easier to me. Take a closer look and decide for yourself. Smile

Posted by Frank X. Shaw
Corporate Vice President, Corporate Communications, Microsoft