Microsoft this week unveiled an initiative to attract Google users who are concerned about the online giant's growing data-collection policies. The initiative involves a public awareness campaign aimed at attracting Google users to comparable Microsoft services and an ad that will appear in major newspapers this week.

The move comes in the wake of a change to Google's privacy policy, which I discussed in a post to the SuperSite Blog over the past weekend. But the big concern about this policy, which I didn't discuss, is that Google isn't providing a way for its users to opt out of its personal data collection. That has infuriated some users and most privacy advocates, and there's been a growing call to boycott the company and its invasive services.

Queue Microsoft.

"The changes Google announced make it harder, not easier, for people to stay in control of their own information," Microsoft Corporate VP Frank Shaw writes in a post at the Official Microsoft Blog. "We take a different approach: 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."

As alternatives to popular Google services, Shaw recommends the following Microsoft services:

Hotmail. Microsoft's web-based email service—which also offers contacts, calendar, and tasks management—is the most popular on Earth and comes with advanced Exchange ActiveSync (EAC) capabilities for pervasive mobile device compatibility. I've recently moved to Hotmail from Gmail myself, though that move was unrelated to the recent furor. You can read more about my experiences in What I Use: Hotmail and Exchange for Email and From Gmail to Hotmail: An Update on the SuperSite for Windows.

Bing. Microsoft's search engine has made fairly significant usage-share advances in the past year and recently surpassed Yahoo! Search to become the number-two most-often-used search engine worldwide. But although Bing of course offers all of the expected services, it excels at certain vertical searches including maps, traveling, shopping, and more.

Office 365. Microsoft's cloud-based productivity service offers Microsoft-hosted versions of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online and costs just $6 per user per month (and up). Microsoft tells me it's the fastest-growing business in the software giant's history. Not coincidentally, I've been writing a lot about Office 365 lately on the SuperSite for Windows. You can read more in In 2011, Microsoft Began Its Comeback in the Cloud, Office 365 for Individuals and Small Businesses, Office 365: Custom Domain Configuration for Email, Better Together: Office 365 + Windows Phone, and Office 365: Small Business Server 2011 Essentials Integration.

Internet Explorer. Critics like to point to IE's slow usage-share losses over time, but Microsoft prefers to highlight the gains that the latest IE version—Internet Explorer 9—is making on the newest Windows version, Windows 7. And this past month, IE actually gained usage share back at the expense of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. A one-month blip or a new trend? If outrage over Google's privacy policies continues, it could be the former. Regardless, IE controls over half the market for web browsers, and more than double the share of its closest rival.

The Microsoft newspaper ad can be seen below. It's a full-page ad and notes that Google's changes aren't about "transparency" or "simplicity" but are instead about one thing: "Making it easier for Google to connect the dots between everything you search, send, say, or stream while using one of their services ... Every data point they collect and connect to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser." 

newspaper_ad