Microsoft should follow Apple's lead and protect personal info

As more and more websites and mobile apps strip-mine our personal data, Apple is aiding users. Google may not help, but Microsoft could

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For Apple, it makes sense to do this. Apple's business is based on highly loyal customers -- few of its customers defect to a competitor -- and protecting those consumers keeps them in the Apple fold. This is especially notable when the competition -- I'm talking to you, Google -- has a rapacious approach to mining user information in practically every product and service offered. After all, that's how Google makes it money. The differentiation between the two companies is stark. Google offers none of the fine-tuned management capabilities for your personal information, though you can manage some of it in your Google account profile. (And you should.)

Google doesn't seem to be as abusive with customer information as Facebook, a service that I'm shocked anyone trusts with any information given its long history of customer abuse. Still, Google has been caught stealing user data, and it paid a pittance in penalties as a result, so it has little reason to stop.

As Google gets more services that mine your information out the door -- the new Google Now service is especially troubling to me given the detailed profile it builds of what you do, what you buy, and where you go -- I hope the Apple privacy promise and users' growing concerns lead to more user information-management controls. Its current "ask the first time and hope users forget they're being tracked" approach is simply not right. A more privacy-friendly approach would help customers remain comfortable with Google's ubiquitous monitoring and thus keep its business model going.

One company that could make a real difference is Microsoft. So far, it has provided minimal controls, letting users turn on or off apps' access to your location and/or to your name and picture. As with Google's Android, it's an all-or-nothing proposition. If Microsoft were to take the same fine-grained tack as Apple, you'd have the two major computing platforms working on behalf of users. That would have major repercussions on all those information-mining Web business and apps.

Microsoft's not in the data-mining business like Google is, so I see no reason it shouldn't take the same high road as Apple. Windows 8 is still in beta, with the final version expected to ship to manufacturers next month for products to be released in October. There's still time for Microsoft to make a change that would help us all better maintain and control our private information, choosing when to share it and for how long.

Microsoft, you've shown a marked change for the better this year, finally competing on the mobile front and shaking off failed PC partnerships. Here's another opportunity to be the new Microsoft.

This article, "Microsoft should follow Apple's lead in protecting personal info," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Smart User blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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