Microsoft updated its new Facebook-powered Bing tools on Tuesday, and über-Googler Matt Cutts promptly splattered this Bingbook setup with another large handful of virtual mud.
Cutts — the Delphic Oracle of Google SEO — doesn't like Facebook because he believes the "instant personalization" tools it offers up to Bing and other sites don't, well, respect user privacy. He prefers Google Buzz, the Gmail add-on that doesn't exactly have a spotless track record when it comes to privacy. Take a moment to enjoy the irony.
On Monday, Microsoft announced that it had completed the rollout of its Bingbook tools, and that it had made a few tweaks: "Today we are completing our deployment of our new social features that we built in partnership with Facebook. We’re really excited to get these features in the hands of all our US users," the company said.
"We have been focused on user feedback in an effort to make sure the features are really useful to customers, and we have made a couple of changes to the product that we want to make people aware of."
Bing now offers something called Facebook Profile Search, which turns up links to Facebook profiles based on your existing list of Facebook friends. With Tuesday's blog post, Microsoft said that you will now show up in profile searches conducted by your friends and friends of friends even if you have not chosen to have your profile data show up in a public search engine.
"This is similar behavior to the way Facebook works," the company said. "It’s important to note that you will not show up in web searches on major search engines including Bing, just in Facebook Profile Searches within Bing conducted by your friends or friends of friends."
Microsoft and Facebook are certainly stretching the boundaries of privacy. That's what very large search and social outfits do, including Google. But in a post to Twitter, Cutts has chosen to single out Google's rivals, cheerily picking a single quote from Microsoft's blog post. "'You will show up in profile searches in Bing, even if you have selected not to have profile information show up in public search engines,'" he quoted, before adding: "Link at http://goo.gl/tPJf from Bing's most recent Facebook post. It happens if you share info with friends inside Facebook."
Yes, this ignores the bit where Microsoft says your profile only shows up when your friends and friends of friends are searching.
Cutts unloaded similar FUD on Microsoft and Facebook when they first announced their Bingbook tools. "Bing and Facebook are now Instant Personalization partners. Unless you opt out, MSFT gets your public data (e.g. likes)?" he tweeted. Yes, Microsoft gets your public data. And we should point out that Google makes a living on services that collect reams of your personal data unless you opt-out.
And when Facebook first announced the "instant personalization" tools that now feed Bing, Cutts made a point of leaving the social networking service. He prefers Twitter — and Buzz. When it was launched in February and pushed out to over 32 million Gmail users, Buzz automatically identified users' most frequent email and chat contacts as people they'd like "to follow," and by default, it exposed these contacts to world+dog. Even former Google policy man and current federal deputy chief technology officer Andrew McLaughlin was caught with his personal data down.
On Wednesday, Google announced it had received preliminary approval for its $8.5 million settlement of a class action brought over the Buzz launch.
In the wake of the launch, the company did change the setup of its Gmail add-on to address privacy concerns. But Buzz still steps on privacy expectations in ways that Facebook never has. It tries to turn a private email client into a social networking service. ®