Microsoft takes new 'Scroogled' shot at Google

Plays off February reports that Google collects personal information from app buyers, shares with developers

Microsoft today launched a third wave of 'Scroogled,' its attack ad-based campaign aimed at Google, this time highlighting what it said were privacy flaws in the latter's Android app store.

"When you buy an Android app from the Google app store, they give the app maker your full name, email address and the neighborhood where you live," Microsoft asserted on its revamped Scrooggled.com site. "This occurs without clear warning every single time you buy an app. "If you can't trust Google's app store, how can you trust them for anything?"

Microsoft contrasted the portrayal of the Google Play store -- the official Android app store, though not the only one -- with the practices of its own app market. "Windows Phone Store does not share any personally identifiable information with the app maker," Microsoft stated.

Apple does not collect such personal information, either, with the exception of some apps that offer auto-renewing subscriptions. In those cases, however, users are alerted via a pop-up, and must approve the data sharing.

Today was the third time Microsoft bashed Google with Scroogled, the campaign credited to Mark Penn, a longtime political and media strategist, who worked as an adviser to former President Bill Clinton during his administration and on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign. Penn was hired by Microsoft in 2012.

Scroogled first took on Google's search practices last year, then in February 2013 followed with an attack on Gmail for machine-reading messages to place targeted advertisements in users' browsers.

One expert has called Scroogled a new form of advertising that blends traditional elements with features usually seen only in political-action efforts. Today's refresh, however, lacked the advocacy component of the February campaign, which included an online petition where users could lodge their agreement with Microsoft.

Microsoft did not come up with the new focus of Scroogled; numerous media reports in mid-February highlighted the Google Play practice.

As Microsoft noted on the Scroogled site, Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Watchdog used those same reports to blast Google in a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the letter, the group claimed that the personal data collection violated a consent order that Google had negotiated with the agency.

"This represents the fifth significant misuse of confidential user data by Google in the last three years," Consumer Watchdog wrote in the letter (download PDF).

The Google Wallet privacy terms do include a clause that declares the payment service -- the payment transaction service required to obtain apps from Google Play -- will "only share your personal information with other companies or individuals outside of Google in the following circumstances," and then notes that one such is "As necessary to process your transaction and maintain your account."

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Microsoft's latest "Scroogled" attack campaign calls out Google for collecting personal information from app buyers, then sharing it with developers without getting explicit approval from customers. (Image: Microsoft.)
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