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Google Under Fire Over Privacy Policy

Earlier this week, consumer groups requested that Google make its privacy policy more visible, making the argument that under California law the company is required to place a link to the privacy policy on its home page. With better visibility, the groups said that users would be more aware of the kind of information that Google collects about them.

Other major websites, such as Google competitors including Yahoo and MSN, have links to their respective privacy policies on their home pages. Google does not include a link to their privacy policy on their home page. They never have in the entire existence of the search engine included a link to their privacy policy on the main page, and have long kept the number of links there to a bare minimum. Instead, Google’s privacy policy can be found by visiting their about page.

The Google privacy policy is always two-clicks a way, no matter what part of the site you’re on. There’s a link to the “About” page on the home page, as well as a link on all of their various service subpages, and the search engine results pages also all have a link to the “About” page.

The consumer groups argue that Google should comply with California law. California’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 requires that commercial websites that collect personally identifiable information to include their privacy policy on their home page, or the “first significant page after entering the web site.” The law also includes some slightly vague language which says that privacy policies must be displayed where a “reasonable person would notice it.”

I think that Google could reasonably argue that two-click access is sufficient, considering that the “About” page could constitute the first significant page after entering the site. And if they’re going off the part that says it must be displayed where a “reasonable person would notice it”, one could argue that a reasonable person would go to their “About” page to find it.

Google is in fact arguing just that: that their privacy policy is easily findable and accessible enough as is, and they don’t seem to keen on changing anything.

According to the fourteen consumer groups who made the request to Google in a letter on Tuesday, if Google does not comply they will review their options, including legal action.

Many would say that Google’s reluctance to include a link to their privacy policy on their home page is worrisome, asking such questions as: Why is it such a big deal? And why don’t they want consumers to be able to find this information easily?

Personally I don’t think it is a big deal. I don’t read the privacy policies on most sites I go to, and I suspect that the majority of people do not as well. So I could care less if it takes me one or two clicks to find it. But then on the other hand, I also don’t see why Google is so opposed to making the change. It’s not that big of a deal, but maybe it’s the fact that they just don’t want to be told what to do.. because if you give in easily to one, then many more will come around with their requests as well.

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2 thoughts on “Google Under Fire Over Privacy Policy

  1. Actually, I think they do have a link. If you type “privacy policy” in the box, you’ll get their privacy policy with one click.

    Seriously, though, it’s not like it is hidden. If someone wants to find it, is the claim that they can’t find it? I don’t believe it.