The groups signing the letter were the ACLU of Northern California, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of California, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Identity Theft Action Council of Nebraska, Knowledge Ecology International, Privacy Lives, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, the U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation and the World Privacy Forum.
Google is no stranger to the criticisms of privacy advocates, many of whom worry about the sheer volume of consumer data it has access to. Its recent acquisition of DoubleClick compounded those fears.
“Privacy policies can be complex and not consumer-friendly,” the company concluded. “To truly help consumers understand privacy, our goal is to provide accessible and useful information.”
Critical or Clutter?
“This is not rocket science,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “And the word ‘privacy’ is not going to take up a lot of space on the Google homepage.”
On the other hand, “The sheer elegance and utter simplicity of the Google Web page is its distinctiveness,” Washington technology lawyer Raymond Van Dyke told the E-Commerce Times. “The inclusion of additional and conspicuous links, words and icons constitutes clutter.”
Whether it’s legal, of course, is another matter.
‘Much Room for Interpretation’
‘Bottom of Every Page’
It remains to be seen whether the privacy groups’ charges lead any further than a simple request made to Google.
In the meantime, “I generally advise my clients to make their privacy policies as conspicuous as possible, because there are a lot of requirements under the law for how you’re supposed to protect individuals’ data usage,” Sean Kane, an attorney with Drakeford & Kane LLC, told the E-Commerce Times.
“As a Web site owner, you want to be as clear as possible — both in the U.S. and even more so in the EU — as to how you’re going to be handling user information,” Kane added. “I always say a link should be on the bottom of every page. This should be something that’s easy to find.”