Google Makes Room for Privacy

Google and privacy advocates will continue to fight a war over the search giant’s use and retention of personal information, but it appears the two sides declared an end to hostilities over the July Fourth holiday weekend regarding the company’s privacy policy. Google now will directly link to its privacy information and policy from its homepage.

“Google values our users’ privacy first and foremost,” wrote Marisa Meyer, Google’s vice president for search products and user experience, on the company’s Official Google Blog. “Trust is the basis of everything we do, so we want you to be familiar and comfortable with the integrity and care we give your personal data.”

A Numbers Game

For both Google and the 14 privacy groups that had sent a letter to company CEO Eric Schmidt on June 3 requesting the change, it’s all about the numbers.

The groups claimed Google was violating California law by not posting a privacy policy link to its homepage, which is standard e-commerce practice. Google is a California-based company; under the law, it had 30 days to respond.

“We counted down, and on day 30 they posted it,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the E-Commerce Times. EPIC was one of the groups complaining about the previous Google policy.

“A link to a privacy policy is of course no guarantee of privacy protection,” Rotenberg said, “but it’s a step in the right direction … a starting point for a better commitment to privacy.”

28 Words Later

Meyer’s Google Blog posting points to a directive from founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that its homepage should not have more than 28 words in order to maintain its famous clean, uncluttered look. So Meyer dropped the word “Google” from the page’s copyright link and replaced it with “privacy.”

“The new ‘Privacy’ link goes to our Privacy Center,” Meyer wrote, “which was revamped earlier this year to be more straightforward and approachable, with videos and a non-legalese overview to make sure you understand in basic terms what Google does, does not, will and won’t do in regard to your personal information.”

However, information in the Privacy Center is still misleading, Rotenberg opined. “If you dig into the details, my view is that they actually don’t do enough on the privacy side. … I don’t think they go far enough into how much information is kept on search histories.”

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