Feeds

World realizes Google home page is 'illegal'

Beauty is advertising, advertising beauty

High performance access to file storage

Five years later, an army of privacy-minded watchdogs has suddenly realized the Google home page is illegal.

Today, a coalition of privacy advocates - including the World Privacy Forum, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the ACLU of Northern California - fired an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, pointing out that the Google home page does not include a link to the company's privacy policy. This, the coalition says, is a blatant violation of the California Online Privacy Protection Act.

Enshrined in 2003, the California Online Privacy Protection Act says that any commercial net operation that collects personal info about its users "shall conspicuously post its privacy policy on its Web site." This means a link to the policy must be "located on the homepage or first significant page after entering the Web site."

As it stands, Google first links to its policy from an "About" page, one hop away from the home page. But the company says this isn't a problem. "By having a link to our privacy policy one click from our home page, and because the privacy policy is easily found by using the search box on the home page, we comply with this statute," a spokeswoman told us.

But EPIC's Marc Rotenberg doesn't buy it. "I've been teaching privacy law for twenty years, and in any of these disputes, there will always be two sides," he told The Reg. "But I think that the straightforward reading is that the requirement is you put a link on your home page. And the best evidence of this is that's basically what every other commercial web site does."

The latest Google privacy debate first turned up last week in a series of blog posts - here and here - from The New York Times. As the The Times tells it, Google founder Larry Page doesn't want a privacy link on that "beautiful clean home page." Page and company recently applied to join the Network Advertising Initiative - an online ad trade group - and though the group recommends home page privacy links, Google told the group it wouldn't heed this recommendation.

Meanwhile, California’s Office of Privacy Protection is making a similar recommendation. "We advocate Google putting a link on its home page," office head Joanne McNabb told us. "That's become standard practice in the industry - more than standard practice." But McNabb's office has no power to regulate. A Google crackdown would have to come from the California Attorney General's office - or a civil suit.

We see little difference between a home page link and an About page link. People so rarely read legalese, wherever it turns up. The bigger issue is that Google refuses to change its privacy policies. The company still indexes your email. It still stores your IP address alongside your search history for at least 18 months. And if it does "anonymize" your IP address after 18 months - and that's a big if - it still refuses to anonymize the whole thing.

But we will say that Larry Page's beautiful-clean-home-page argument is a hoot. Clearly, this ongoing obsession with a clean home page has nothing to do with beauty and everything to do with dollars. If you can link to "Advertising Programs" without hurting the beauty of your home page, you can link to a privacy policy.

Or maybe this obsession has everything to do with arrogance. Google likes to think it's different from the rest. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.