Google Click-to-Call

Google recently released an enhancement to their AdWords paid search results called “Click-to-Call.” When you click the phone icon on an AdWords ad, you enter your phone number and Google calls the number you provided. When you pick up, you hear ringing on the other end as Google connects you to the advertiser you clicked on.

This immediately conjours up privacy conerns, adding your phone number to the list of information Google collects about you. Google, for their part, anticipate this, and provide a detailed privacy policy. It includes more detail than their typical policies:

  • Each time you use Google Click-to-Call, the phone number you provide will be transmitted to Google’s servers so that we can provide you with the service. It will be deleted from our servers after a period reasonably necessary to operate, audit, and evaluate the service.
  • The phone number you provide will also be securely stored in in an encrypted “cookie” on your computer so that you can easily re-use Google Click-to-Call and other Google services, such as our mobile services.
  • Connectivity for Google Click-to-Call is provided by a third party vendor, subject to this privacy notice and agreement of confidentiality. Neither Google nor our vendor will sell, rent or otherwise share your personal information with any third parties except in the limited circumstances described in this notice and the Google Privacy Policy.

Of course, we don’t know what they mean when Google says they’ll store your phone number for “a period reasonably necessary” – is that a week, a month, a year? Also, so far Google hasn’t released the name of the third-party who is enablling this service, and we’re left having to trust Google’s faith in this company not to collect, store, sell or otherwise abuse user’s phone numbers.

I’m hoping Chris Hoofnagle will provide more insights at this weekend’s “Regulating Search?” conference at Yale Law School.

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