On Privacy, Mozilla Developer Backs Bing Over Google

Asa Dotzler takes issue with Google's privacy policy, but is he biting the hand that feeds him?

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Tech-bloggers did a double-take on Thursday when Asa Dotzler, leading developer of popular open-source web browser Mozilla Firefox, slammed Google's privacy policy on his blog. Dotzler, director of Mozilla's Community Development department, was utterly incensed by a CNBC interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. He took issue with Schmidt's controversial contention that Google searches weren't and shouldn't be considered private by users. Dotzler encouraged his readers and all Firefox users to cease using Google immediately and switch to a search engine with a "better privacy policy": Microsoft's Bing. Impressed by Dotzler's boldness, tech bloggers were also mindful of the tangled web of relationships that have been woven between the three companies over the past years. Here's what the bloggers think of the daring move:

  • Hell Freezes Over  Bit-Tech blogger Gareth Halfacree calls the move "a departure" from the usual, but a sign of the rapidly shifting alliances in the search wars: "In a topsy-turvy world where Microsoft is the good guy and Google the bad, Dotzler points out that Bing's published privacy policy is much more robust than that offered by Google."
  • Mozilla is Biting the Hand That Feeds It  At Ars Technica, Emil Protalinski voices the common view among the tech press that Dotzler is putting his non-profit Mozilla Foundation in a precarious position by criticizing Google so directly, especially since "the larger majority of Mozilla's revenue has always come from Google (about 97 percent). In November 2009, we noted that most of Mozilla's revenue was still being generated through search deals with Google and other popular website operators (one of the reasons why Dotzler can't simply push for Bing becoming the default search engine in Firefox)." Moreover, as GigaOm's Sebastian Rupley explains, Google is gearing up to squish Mozilla with its own browser line-up: "Mozilla’s deal with Google is set to expire in November 2011, and there are good reasons to question whether it will be renewed. For one thing, Google has just delivered beta versions of its Mac and Linux Chrome browsers, as well as a large collection of much-awaited extensions for Chrome. It’s fleshing out an open-source, cross-platform browsing strategy that could enable it to break its financial bond with Mozilla."
  • Mozilla Should Walk the Talk  Danny Sullivan challenges Dotzler at his Search Engine Land blog. He notes that Firefox has "constantly excluded" everything but Google as the default search engine option in their browser window due to their financial deal with the search-giant, going against Firefox's stated commitment to openness and creating a hurdles for consumers looking for other options. Even more damning, he produces an extensive, verbatim record of Dotzler singing a whole different tune last year: trashing Sullivan for advocating for the inclusion of Bing. As he opines:
I’m not sure if I’m still full of ***** according to Dotzler or not. But he was pretty adamant, as you can see, that Firefox isn’t listing Google as a default in most of its installations because of a financial deal and that it would make the best choices for its users.

So skip the entire thing about adding Bing as a default option. That should happen, of course. But if Dotzler now believes that Google is so bad for users on the privacy front, shouldn’t he lobby for it to be the default in Firefox. And can't Firefox make that happen?
  • Reveals Fundamentally Different Search Philosophies  Ina Fried concentrates on Dotzler's endorsement of Bing as over Google when it comes to protecting user privacy. She chalks up his interpretation to a genuine divergence in how Google and Bing approach their perspective markets, saying that ultimately, it remains to be seen whose approach will prove the most sustainable:
Google's attitude tends to focus on the great benefits that open information can, and often does have. Plus, of course, its stance is an outgrowth of the fact that Google has built its business around gaining revenue by doing the best job of organizing that information.

Microsoft's approach, meanwhile, stems no less from its economic interest, but its zeal is tempered by years of heavy regulation and consumer backlash
  • Privacy Debate Extends Far Beyond Any of these Companies, asserts David Adams at Os News blog. He thinks that Google CEO Eric Schmidt's inflammatory comments have been unfairly demonized to some extent: "Schmidt is correct that his company is powerless to withhold your information from the government, and is unwilling to sacrifice the features and convenience that Google users eagerly utilize every day." On the other hand, he reminds readers there is a troubling precedent of private information being used for evil:
History has given us plenty of examples of governments becoming corrupted by paranoia and being willing to trample on everyone's freedoms in order to 'protect' its citizens from 'bad people,' real or imaginary. Likewise, profit-driven companies have proven all too willing to sell out their customers to make an easy buck.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.