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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Google Changes Home Page, Adding Link to Privacy Policy

Google tries tighter aim for Web ads.
Google, with its deep reservoir of data about online behavior gathered by tracking hundreds of millions of computers, is for the first time testing ways to use some of that data to aim ads at Web users
Google Homepage Adds Privacy Lin
Google's homepage at has been changed: the search engine leader has decided that a privacy link, which leads to the company's straightforward Privacy Center, should be fit somewhere on its first page. But there was also the company policy of keeping things neat and thin, with a fixed word count of 28 words on the homepage.

What could then be removed to make room for the "Privacy" word and link? Looking around, there was this one word that seemed superfluous: Google, in the copyright notice at the bottom of the search homepage. Consequently, the "©2008 Google" was changed into "©2008 Privacy," with the Privacy hyperlinked to

Marissa Mayer, VP Search Products & User Experience at Google, explained the whole word count thing on a company blog. Apparently they got into the whole "keep it thin" thing after a user kept sending cryptic emails which had a number as subject. The messages were like "61, getting a bit heavy, aren't we?" Finally, the mystery was cracked and Mayer realized that the person was talking about the number of words on the Google homepage, which were only 13 when it was launched back in 1999.

What Marissa Mayer doesn't mention is that privacy organizations wrote to Google CEO Eric Schmidt last month requesting such as change. It appears that California law requires that all pages have a privacy link on their homepage.

The petition was signed by representatives from Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the World Privacy Forum, Consumer Action, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Consumer Federation of California.

At first, Google said its privacy policy was easily accessible to users, and available to anyone through the “About Google” link. Furthermore, Google says that by adding it, it would change the purposely plain home page. According to California’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003, all companies need to put their privacy policy on their home page. However, Google did not completely ignore the law, which also states that the privacy policy can also be placed where a reasonable person would notice it.

The company said last month that anyone could simply type the words “Google privacy policy” and the search engine will find the page for them. However, it seems that Google wanted to play it safe and comply with the request in a more straightforward way.


The word “privacy” now appears on Google’s home page, with a link to the company’s privacy policy.
With that one word, the Web search giant heads off the growing controversy over whether its previous practice ran afoul of a California law, the California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003, which requires the operator of a commercial Web site that collects personal information to link to its privacy policy from its home page.
When I wrote in May that Google appears to be violating the law, Google told me that it did not believe that it was required to put a link on its home page. The company said that its privacy policy was easy enough to find, either on the page called “About Google” or by searching for “Google privacy policy” on its search engine.
Later, I spoke to Joanne McNabb, the chief of California’s Office of Privacy Protection, who said that her agency believes that Google should have a link to its privacy policy on its home page. After the issue buzzed about the blogosphere, four privacy groups wrote Google urging it to change its practices.
Google announced its change of heart on both

Some users, bloggers, and regulatory bodies have asked us why we didn’t have a link, and, after evaluating, we decided that it was the right time to add one. While users have always been able to easily search for and find our policy before, or click through to it, this provides an easier path to learning about our privacy approach. We’ve also added the same link on the results page, as many users arrive on them directly.

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