Groups Push Google on Privacy Disclosure

Privacy advocates urge the search giant to follow standard industry practices.

Privacy groups said on June 3 that Google should follow standard industry practices and post a link on its homepage to the search giant's privacy policy.

Google has so far resisted the call for the privacy link, saying it did not want to clutter its homepage.

In a letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the groups note 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."

The organizations signing the letter include 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.

"This is not rocket science. And the word 'privacy' is not going to take up a lot of space on the Google homepage," Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's executive director, said in a statement.

Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, added, "Google's homepage will easily accommodate this important seven-letter word." Currently, accessing Google's privacy policy requires 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.

"Privacy policies can be complex and not consumer-friendly. To truly help consumers understand privacy, our goal is to provide accessible and useful information," a Google spokesperson said. "We share the view that privacy information should be easy to find, and we believe our privacy policy is readily accessible to our users."

The spokesperson said Google not only offers a privacy center page, but also has created a YouTube privacy channel explaining the company's privacy policies.

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 note, "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."