SAN FRANCISCO —
"It's always the underdog that does negative advertising like this, and there is no doubt that Microsoft is now the underdog," said Jonathan Weber, who has been following Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign at search consulting firm LunaMetrics.
On the flip side, Google has evolved from an endearing Internet startup to an imposing giant running Web and mobile services that vacuum intimate details about people's lives. Despite repeated management assurances about respecting personal privacy, Google has experienced several lapses that have resulted in regulatory fines, settlements and scorn around the world.
Beyond privacy, Google has been portrayed as an abusive bully in various complaints about its business practices.
On Tuesday, the Microsoft-led FairSearch group complained that Google has acted unfairly by requiring device makers relying on its Android software to install an entire suite of Google's mobile services, even if they just wanted one or two apps, such as Google Maps or YouTube. That still hasn't prevented device makers from redesigning Android to suit their own purposes. Amazon.com Inc., with its Kindle Fire, and Barnes & Noble Inc., with its Nook tablets, are among the companies selling Android products that don't feature Google services.
Microsoft's latest ads revolve around concerns already raised by privacy watchdogs. Critics argue that Google hasn't adequately disclosed that customers' names, email addresses and neighborhood locations are routinely sent to the makers of apps sold in Google's online Play store.
At least one group, Consumer Watchdog, has complained to the Federal Trade Commission that Google's apps practices represent an "egregious privacy violation." Citing agency policy, FTC spokesman Jay Mayfield declined to comment on whether the complaint has triggered a formal investigation.
"What Google is doing is a big problem, so I am glad Microsoft is helping to bring it to light," said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director. "But Microsoft has its own problems. I certainly don't think they are doing this for altruistic reasons. They are clearly doing this for their own competitive purposes."