MicrosoftMicrosoft has taken out full-page newspaper adverts to criticise changes to Google’s policies.

Google has touted the changes it announced last week as a simplification of detailed but obtuse policies and a way to provide a better user experience.

However, Microsoft’s adverts say the changes allow Google to internally merge the data it collects on user activity across services such as YouTube and Gmail and are meant to allow advertisers to better target customers.

Microsoft offered up its own internet products, saying users of its free email service, Hotmail, do not have to worry about the content of their emails being used to help target adverts.

The attack adverts have appeared in newspapers including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

‘Every data point Google collects and connects to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser,’ Microsoft says in the advert.

In response, Google published a blog post in which it refuted what it called ‘myths’ about its new privacy policy, saying: ‘Our privacy controls have not changed. Period.’

The company does not dispute that it serves up adverts based on words in private emails written by users of Gmail, but says such scanning is automated and is similar to how many email providers filter out spam. It has operated that way since Gmail’s introduction in 2004.

Both companies offer several controls to prevent advertisers from tracking users’ online activity.

Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of the website Search Engine Land, said Google’s privacy policy simplification had turned into a public relations ‘nightmare’, but only because it focused attention on the kind of data that Google had collected for years.

He said Microsoft also collected a lot of user data from its search engine, Bing, and adjusted search results based on information it found in users’ Facebook accounts if they were logged in.

‘I think they’re largely about the same,’ Sullivan said. ‘It would not be hard to go through and pick any major internet company, talk about the kind of data they collect and start getting people paranoid.’

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