Privacy Groups Miss The Point: It's Not Where Google's Privacy Policy Is, It's What It Does

from the focusing-on-the-wrong-thing dept

Last week, we wrote about the ridiculous concerns being raised by a few privacy advocates that (gasp!) Google doesn’t include a link to its privacy policy on the front page. This seemed like a really pointless concern since almost no one reads these privacy policies anyway, and those who do often misunderstand the policy anyway. Besides, there are plenty of companies out there that don’t even abide by their own privacy policies. In other words, the real issue isn’t where the privacy policy is, but whether or not the company actually keeps its promises and treats its users’ data properly.

And yet… a bunch of consumer and privacy groups, including ones I respect like the EFF and the ACLU are now trying to turn this into a big deal by publicly demanding that Google add a link to its privacy policy on its home page. This isn’t about privacy. This is “privacy theater.” It’s about putting on a good show that has nothing to do with whether or not Google is doing right by its users. If there’s a link to Google’s privacy policy on its front page or not, it won’t change what Google does with users’ info, and it almost certainly won’t change the way anyone (other than maybe these groups) view Google. It’s all a big show for no reason. There are plenty of important causes that these groups should be working on. Worrying whether or not Google links to its privacy policy from its front page or one page deep is silly pandering.

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Companies: aclu, eff, google

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Comments on “Privacy Groups Miss The Point: It's Not Where Google's Privacy Policy Is, It's What It Does”

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27 Comments
Jeremy M says:

Silly Pandering indeed!

This just goes to show you the fusses these groups get into to seem bigger than they really are.

Personally, I don’t care about Google’s Privacy Policy. Why? They’ve given so much to us (myself being a user) and NOT spammed their users with third party stuff. There’s no reason not to expect them to hold fast to their high level of trust between them and their user base.

about nothing (profile) says:

Much ado

While I agree this is silly pandering with little real benefit to the consumer I fail to see why Google doesn’t simply add a link to avoid the bad publicity. A single link next to the three already on the home page
(Advertising Programs – Business Solutions – About Google)
won’t clutter the page nor detract from the user experience.

It is silly for these groups to take a shot a Google for not displaying some meaningless eye-candy and it is just plain stupid for Google to dig its heels in on such a minor tweak to the home page.

Kevin says:

Re: Re:

If I were looking for Google’s privacy policy I might think the “About Google” link on their front page would be a good palce to start. And I’d be right. It’s right there at the bottom.

Hmm…if I’m at http://www.google.com and I want to see their privacy policy, what might be a good way to SEARCH for it? Oh, I know. How about googling the words “google privacy policy”? I don’t know what’s so hard about that.

Suman Bolar says:

Shift of focus?

The privacy policy is one page in, logically (and clearly) placed in the “about google” section.

In terms of branding, a huge part of Google’s initial appeal was that it broke away from the clutter of other search engines of the time (yahoo, infoseek, et al) and gave us a clean page that let us do what we were there to do (search) without clicking off at tangents.

How about focusing on consistent enforcement of stated privacy policies instead of nitpicking about placement?

Melvillain (user link) says:

Much ado about nothing

What is this obsession with privacy? Are people just now aware that they are shouting out their personal information every time they go online? You’re right Mike, it’s not about where their privacy policy is posted but, what they do with our info. The internet operates on a public trust that our personal information won’t be abused. I agree, that’s an a–load of trust but, so far it’s all we have.

Yakko Warner says:

Nothing better to do?

What the heck is the ACLU doing getting involved in this? What civil liberties are being violated here?

Although Google could easily shut them up by putting a link on the home page (and their reasoning for not doing so is pretty silly; it wouldn’t add *that* much clutter to their page, not any more than is already there), there is absolutely nothing wrong with where the link is now.

Can Google sue for defamation for these groups trying to make a public spectacle out of this non-issue? If they think a law has been violated, let them take Google to court, where they can attempt to explain to a judge how clicking “About Google” and “Privacy Policy” is too hard.

Zabi says:

Bored and have nothing to do....

I tell you, these people have nothing else to do. this shows how useless all these groups are. just looking for tiney detailed and useless things to make our lives a living hell… these are the people why coffee cups have a warning on them ” contents may be hot”
and if someone wants to read the damn policy… just google it and it pops up in front of you……

by the way, i use iGoogle and it’s right there at the bottom of the page saying…. “privacy policy”.

Clueby4 says:

He who will fool me at play, will fool me any way...

I’m not sure, if you can’t even get them to put the frelling link on the front page. Then I seriously doubt you can get them to agree on more important things.

The issue is being blown up by google not anyone else, put the link out there and don’t get lippy about “creativity” or “clean” home pages. As if; Advertising Programs, Business Solutions, or that filthy copyright symbol doesn’t already soil the precious home page.

Jeff says:

iGoogle

What are they talking about? I use iGoogle’s homepage feature and at the bottom, TA-DA! A privacy policy link!

I mean, I understand that it’s not on the classic home page, but really, is it that hard to find? Let’s find out. Hmm, let’s see… Oh! ‘About Google’… *click*… THAR IT IS! Google isn’t trying to hide anything. I guess we just have some lazy people is all…

John D says:

Liar or Moron?

From the article:

‘Ms Givens, of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, said: “I went through the exercise of finding [Google’s] privacy policy and it’s not easy. It’s not intuitive and it’s not a couple of clicks. You have to work at it.’

And yet, I was able to get to it in three clicks. (About Google -> Privacy Policy -> Google Privacy Policy).

It’s one thing to say you don’t agree with the way a company does something, but why does this woman feel the need to lie about it to make her point?

Pathetic!

Eric Goldman (profile) says:

I agree...but...

Mike, you’re right (as usual) that the drumbeat on this topic is wasteful showboating. However, from my perspective, the real villains are the politicians who have legislatively mandated that websites put specific words on their home pages regarding privacy. It’s never good when politicians try to control user interfaces. On the other hand, it’s completely fair game for the advocacy groups to identify companies who aren’t complying with the law and push for compliance. (I’m not saying Google isn’t in compliance, but clearly the privacy groups think so). Eric.

John (profile) says:

Fortune and glory

To take a quote from an Indiana Jones movie, it sounds like this issue is about “fortune and glory”.

All of the “privacy companies” will gain “glory” (actually “notoriety”) and bragging rights because they were the ones who “forced big bad Google to do what we want”.

It’s very telling that they go after a fairly small issue (where to place a link on a site) rather than the larger issue of auditing sites to make sure they follow their own privacy policy. But, which issue is easier to handle and which will bring them “we beat Google” bragging rights faster?

Dan Houser, CISSP, etc. says:

Actually, I do care

Does this matter about Google? Not if they’re the only ones who aren’t compliant. However, I actually review and use privacy policies, and they really do matter. Clear and conspicuous is law for a reason… without it, we would never be able to have an idea what their privacy stance is. I’m not deluded enough to believe it’s a guarantee, but it is a legal contract, and a strong indicator of their privacy beliefs.

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