Scroogled, my ass

Microsoft makes hay on its Scroogled claims while conveniently side-stepping its own dirty secrets

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When it comes to pots calling privacy-busting kettles black, Google doesn't even hold a candle to Windows 8.1's new "feature" dubbed SmartSearch. It's activated by default when you install Windows 8.1, and it's undeniably "smart" -- for Microsoft's data gathering and for Bing advertisers.

I talked about the details back in July, when we first saw SmartSearch in the Windows 8.1 Milestone Preview. Nothing's changed since then. Basically, unless you know how and where to turn it off, Microsoft is going to start gathering all of the search terms you use on your computer, inside Windows, to look for data on your computer or your local network. Those search terms get sent to Bing, where they can be mashed up with your Microsoft account. Note that I'm not talking about Web searches, where you expect the search engine to store what you type. I'm talking about searches on your machine.

Microsoft has made Scroogled hay out of the way Google displays paid ads in search results. Even a cursory glance at search results shows that Bing and Google both play the same game. But this new SmartSearch "feature" makes the old paid-ad argument look like a tempest in a blackened teapot. Now, with Windows 8.1, Microsoft reaches into your machine, stores all of the terms you search for, and dishes up ads based on the results.

I don't want to leave you with the impression that I condone Google's highly questionable data-harvesting techniques. Quite the contrary. But Microsoft's holier-than-thou attack ad campaign begs a big reality check.

A further counsel bear in mind:
If that thy roof be made of glass,
It shows small wit to pick up stones
To pelt the people as they pass.

-- Miguel de Cervantes, "Don Quixote de la Mancha," 1605
   (transl. John Ormsby, 1885)

This story, "Scroogled, my ass," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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