Google Relents on Privacy Policy Link

The search giant agrees to place a link on its homepage to the company's privacy policy information.

It took a month, but Google finally relented to pressure from privacy groups to add a link on its homepage to the company's privacy policy. Google had resisted the addition of a privacy link, saying it did not want to clutter its homepage.

"We're making a homepage change by adding a link to our privacy overview and policies," Marissa Mayer, vice president of Search Products & User Experience, said in a July 3 Google Blog post. "Google values our users' privacy first and foremost. 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."

Google's privacy policy came under fire in early June when the privacy groups sent a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt complaining that under California law, a commercial Web site must "conspicuously post its privacy policy on its Web site. Moreover, just about every major company that operates a Web site places a link to its privacy policy on its homepage."

Among the groups signing the letter were EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the World Privacy Forum, Consumer Action, the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), the ACLU of Northern California and the Consumer Federation of California.

At the time, accessing Google's privacy policy required users to click on "About Google" on the homepage, which leads to a second page that includes a link to the company's privacy policy.

"The new privacy link goes to our Privacy Center, 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," Mayer wrote.

The California law requires that a company that collects personally identifiable information on users must post its privacy policy but does not specifically require the link on the homepage. The law requires a "text link that hyperlinks to a Web page on which the actual privacy policy is posted, if the text link is located on the homepage or first significant page after entering the Web site."

In the letter to Schmidt, the groups noted, "While we do not believe that a privacy policy is a guarantee of privacy protection, it does represent a commitment by a commercial Web site to inform users about the company's privacy practices."