Microsoft’s Competitive Advantage: Privacy

Today, I attended a lunch at the Berkman Center with Microsoft’s Ira Rubinstein. Ira talked about privacy and how it is built into the Microsoft development model. He mentioned Microsoft’s new layered approach to privacy policies, where a simple front page gives you the highlights, and you can drill down on any point. A bit like the Creative Commons deeds, without the nice icons (maybe there should be privacy concept icons?)

Ira carefully went through a number of scenarios regarding the handling of personally identifiable information in Microsoft applications. As I sat there listening, I wondered “why is he telling us all of this in meticulous detail?” Then it hit me: in a world where Google stores your data and the privacy implications are murky at best, Microsoft has a fascinating competitive advantage: with their desktop apps and their general desktop platform control, they can provide services with clearer, more well thought-out privacy policies, and, interestingly, far more minimalist data retention. Surely, they can’t quite compete with free software, but free software is only part of the picture: who is going to run the online services?

This has always been Google’s weakness, and Microsoft is about to exploit it. A few days ago, I wondered who would have the incentive to deploy privacy? It seems maybe Microsoft will, and may use it as a competitive advantage. Google will have to clarify their privacy strategy soon.

9 thoughts on “Microsoft’s Competitive Advantage: Privacy

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  2. I don’t see this as a significant advantage. The average consumer is not concerned by this (and rightly so). Why? Because Google hasn’t given them a reason not to trust them. Google provides various assurances (like no human reads your email – it’s only accessible to programs – or something like that.) Unless you think Google is lying about that, most people are happy enough with that. And if you think you can’t trust Google that much, you’ll be out of luck using the Internet given your lack of control over your data as it hops about once it is off your host, no?

  3. I don’t see this as a significant advantage. The average consumer is not concerned by this (and rightly so). Why? Because Google hasn’t given them a reason not to trust them. Google provides various assurances (like no human reads your email – it’s only accessible to programs – or something like that.) Unless you think Google is lying about that, most people are happy enough with that. And if you think you can’t trust Google that much, you’ll be out of luck using the Internet given your lack of control over your data as it hops about once it is off your host, no?

  4. I think Google doesn’t provide much in terms of privacy assurances. Few people have been horribly burned so far, but that will likely change as businesses start using Google Apps, etc… There is certainly a lack of awareness of the privacy issues regarding storing your data at a service provider, you’re right. But that awareness may go up significantly as soon as there a few bad cases.

    I’m less worried about data in transit than I am about data stored on hard drives, backups, etc…. But of course that doesn’t mean one should be careless about data in transit, you’re right.

  5. I think Google doesn’t provide much in terms of privacy assurances. Few people have been horribly burned so far, but that will likely change as businesses start using Google Apps, etc… There is certainly a lack of awareness of the privacy issues regarding storing your data at a service provider, you’re right. But that awareness may go up significantly as soon as there a few bad cases.

    I’m less worried about data in transit than I am about data stored on hard drives, backups, etc…. But of course that doesn’t mean one should be careless about data in transit, you’re right.

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  9. Pingback: Ira Rubinstein on Microsoft’s Corporate Privacy Guidelines | John Palfrey

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