Google's Missing Link - InformationWeek
Mobile // Mobile Applications
05:20 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
Connect Directly
Ransomware: Latest Developments & How to Defend Against Them
Nov 01, 2017
Ransomware is one of the fastest growing types of malware, and new breeds that escalate quickly ar ...Read More>>

Google's Missing Link

What do Microsoft and Yahoo have on their home pages that Google doesn't? They have links to their respective privacy policies.

What do Microsoft and Yahoo have on their home pages that Google doesn't? They have links to their respective privacy policies.To find a link to Google's privacy policy, you have to follow the "About Google" link from

The absence of a privacy policy link on may seem inconsequential, particularly given that few people actually read privacy policies. But a number of privacy groups find the missing link to be "alarming."

Fourteen privacy groups, including Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the World Privacy Forum, Consumer Action, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Consumer Federation of California, and ACLU of Northern California, have written an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt urging the company to add a link on to Google's privacy policy.

"California law requires the operator of a commercial Web site to 'conspicuously post its privacy policy on its Web site,'" the letter says. "The straightforward reading of that law is that Google must place the word 'privacy' on the Web page linked to its privacy policy. Moreover, just about every major company that operates a Web site places a link to its privacy policy on its homepage."

Aesthetic treason though it may be to clutter the nearly pristine with an additional seven letters, Google really ought to comply, even if doing so results in a slight statistical diminution of "user happiness" -- Google's measure of how pages perform. (Believe it or not, Google pays a lot of attention to tiny details that affect page load times and user response. Tenths of seconds matter to Google.)

Clearly, Google is not keen to set a precedent that anyone with a grievance is entitled to redress on its home page. But the company has to make sure its public statements about privacy remain consistent with its actions. And it just looks bad for Google to insist that it reads the law differently than everyone else. It makes Google look like it's trying to pull one over on its users.

Google's stance is particularly perplexing given that in 2005 and 2006 the company publicly resisted the U.S. Department of Justice's demand for user search data to protect user privacy. Google associate general counsel Nicole Wong said at the time in a blog post that Google worried that "if the government was permitted to require Google to hand over search queries, that could have undermined confidence that our users have in our ability to keep their information private."

What could boost user confidence in Google's ability to keep user information private more than a prominent privacy policy? (Aside from deciding not to store any user data for any purpose.)

At Google's recent developer conference, VP of search products Marissa Mayer said that the "©2008 Google" notice on the Google home page exists as punctuation, to alert users that the page has loaded completely. Why not replace it with a "Privacy" link, since the copyright notice isn't legally necessary?

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of IT Report
In today's technology-driven world, "innovation" has become a basic expectation. IT leaders are tasked with making technical magic, improving customer experience, and boosting the bottom line -- yet often without any increase to the IT budget. How are organizations striking the balance between new initiatives and cost control? Download our report to learn about the biggest challenges and how savvy IT executives are overcoming them.
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll