Google Wants You to Search for their Privacy Policy (and they get to record that query!)

I’ve long complained about how it takes at least 2 clicks to get to Google’s privacy policy from its homepage (3 clicks if you count its new Privacy Center splash page). And that’s only if you happen to click on “About Google,” and then happen to find the “Privacy Policy” link at the bottom of that page. Nowhere on Google’s homepage, nor on its search results page, will you find the words “privacy policy.” A user must actively seek out the world’s largest search engine’s privacy policy — one would never search for something, and then notice there is a privacy policy, click on it, and suddenly learn about the information Google collects and what they do with it.

This lack of visibility is coming to public attention: the New York Times notes that Google is battling with the Network Advertising Initiative, a trade group that sets standards for companies that collect data for use in targeting advertising, over the NAI’s demand that members provide clear and conspicuous notice of how they collect and use data. The NAI says that website’s homepages should provide a link to their privacy policy. Google, in short, doesn’t want to mess with the clean aesthetics of its homepage, arguing that “By simply typing ‘Google privacy policy’ into the Google search engine, consumers can easily find not only our privacy policy, but additional information about privacy.”

Wow — rather than adding a 2-word link in small blue letters at the bottom of its homepage, Google thinks you should subject yourself to its data collection regime in order to find its privacy policy (remember, Google’s TOS, which also cannot be found on the homepage, states that you agree to the Terms of Service “by actually using the Services”).

If you are concerned about the privacy of your search queries, and want to learn about what Google’s policy is, you need to search for its policy, and have that query logged in the servers in Mountain View.

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