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Google gets bad buzz, and Microsoft pounces--sort of

Microsoft aims to exploit uneasiness over Google's new privacy steps by talking up its own services--but hasn't offered much but spin so far.

Microsoft is pouncing on the recent bad press about Google in an attempt to win over more customers.

Frank Shaw, corporate VP for Microsoft's Corporate Communications group, boasted in a blog today that Microsoft offers people a safer choice than Google, which has been buffeted by worries over its new privacy policies. The company also plans a bigger ad campaign to exploit what it sees as Google's recent missteps.

Google's woes follow its move to alter its privacy policies to share user information across different products and services. The company has even been forced to justify its decision to Congress, which has raised its own concerns over the new policies.

Shaw said Google's changes will make it harder for people to control their own information. By contrast, of course, Microsoft offers a kinder and gentler alternative, Shaw argues:

We work to keep you safe and secure online, to give you control over your data, and to offer you the choice of saving your information on your hard drive, in the cloud, or on both.

For instance, Shaw talked up Hotmail by inviting users to "join the hundreds of millions of people who enjoy not worrying about the content of their private e-mails being used to serve ads." Shaw likewise referred to the company's cloud-based Office 365 as "the award-winning online collaboration solution for businesses who don't want their documents and mail used to benefit advertisers."

Microsoft's campaign won't stop with Shaw's blog post. The company is also placing full-page ads in several major newspapers this week titled "Putting people first." The ads play up the supposed anxiety of Google users and promote Microsoft's own products as more secure.

Microsoft and Google have long been adversaries on a variety of fronts.

The two companies have dueled over lucrative government and commercial contracts for their cloud-based services, with Google hawking its Google Apps and Microsoft pushing Office 365.

Google commands the search engine market by a wide margin, but Microsoft has been striving to bring more people to Bing, even teaming up with Yahoo to offer more of a united front against its rival. In the Web browser arena, Microsoft's Internet Explorer still holds dominance, but Google's Chrome has been battling with Firefox for the No. 2 spot, according to recent data.

Update at 3:30 a.m. PT February 2:

In a swift response to Microsoft's campaign, Google posted a blog on Wednesday afternoon in an effort to deflate Microsoft's claims. Betsy Masiello, a Google policy manager, defended the changes in her company's privacy policy. But the fact that she needed to do so may be a sign that Google hasn't done a thorough job of clarifying its changes or addressing user concerns.