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Google in Violation of California Privacy Act?

NYTimes Experts Believe it is

     
3:35 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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An article in the NYTimes quotes several experts [bits.blogs.nytimes.com] who believe Google violates California's online privacy act by not having a prominent link to their privacy statement from their home page.

Okay, I think Google is in violation.
They’re not an “online service” for purposes of the act... These services had to be differentiated, because they might not be able to present a privacy policy through a webpage, as the law requires.

...It takes 3 clicks to get to Google’s privacy policy. The provision concerning “first significant page” is to deal with websites that have “splash” pages. It’s hard to believe that the “first significant page” on Google is its “about” page...

It’s pretty obvious that the first significant page on Google is the search results page. But that page doesn’t contain the privacy policy or a link to it either.

3:37 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Man, don't these people have any better things to do? ;)

Moreover, privacy policies are more about fine print and legal mumbo jumbo than information that is really useful to people.

That's it in a nutshell. I think they are splitting hairs over this one. You know, a couple of lawyers sitting around wondering what they were going to do next. "Hey, let's see if we can dig up some off the wall minutia..."

6:44 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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For 6 or 7 years, our privacy policy has stated that we only sell your email addresses to some noodle vendor in Afghanistan.

Since 2001 we have never had a single comment on it, which leads me to believe that nobody reads it.

6:46 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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here's just a little irony for your friday:
[webmasterworld.com...]
6:47 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Why do they need to bother to have a link from the home page? Jeez, It's just one click away if you do a search query for Google Privacy. One could argue that it is easier to find than a lot of other sites
7:11 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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First Viacom, then Belgium, now California? Everyone wants a piece of that tasty Google pie.
7:16 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Google Inc is a Litigation Magnet to the nth degree. There are people in law school now who are training to become Google Litigators, I'm sure it is an industry in itself.

I've worked with a couple of firms that were Litigation Magnets. One was forced out of business after being around for 40+ years due to all the "minutia litigation". They would have won 9.9 out of 10 of their cases but the cost to fight just wasn't worth it.

Many are hoping for out of court settlements, that's really the bottom line. Bunch of ambulance chasers if you ask me...

7:28 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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>>>First Viacom, then Belgium, now California?

StoutFiles, four important points:

1. California's law has been in effect since 2004

2. This law applies to everyone

3. This is not about a lawsuit against Google, and if you take a moment to read the article, you will find the subject is not about attempts to get money out of Google.

4. This is about Google "splitting hairs" in order to, as some experts believe, avoid compliance with a California privacy law.

Here's a thread from four years ago about the California privacy act of 2003 [webmasterworld.com].

Many are hoping for out of court settlements, that's really the bottom line.

Not in this case. There is no lawsuit, no demand for money, no bottom line. It's just a reporter realizing, "Hey, Google doesn't appear to be complying with a significant law."

[edited by: martinibuster at 7:42 pm (utc) on May 30, 2008]

7:42 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Not in this case.

Understood. Let's see how far it escalates after the Privacy Groups get a hold of it.

7:46 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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"For 6 or 7 years, our privacy policy has stated that we only sell your email addresses to some noodle vendor in Afghanistan. "

WLauzon, ROFL - Do you have a count of how many mails Tasatullah Fahrouk sent out from Afghanistan?

I cant help laughing reading the Privacy page.

On a serious note, it might be a good idea to introduce this as a course in Law School to study the various litigations that can potentially arise out of Google's policies. I can easily think of quite a few organizations who would love to hire law graduates who excel in this course.

7:48 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I was just being sarcastic martinibuster. It seems like everyday Google has to deal with something else. I agree they should have the privacy link on their classic home page(igoogle has it on the home page).
9:31 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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For 6 or 7 years, our privacy policy has stated that we only sell your email addresses to some noodle vendor in Afghanistan.

Since 2001 we have never had a single comment on it, which leads me to believe that nobody reads it.

Too funny. :) In high school I put the words to Old McDonald Had a Farm in the middle of one of my essays for a social sciences class to see if the teacher was really reading the papers or just grading papers based on historical GPAs. I got an 'A' on the essay with no comment about the song lyrics.

9:40 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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-- Man, don't these people have any better things to do? ;)--

Got to agree, they might have a point in principle and in law, but in the real world this action is pointless. It actually distracts from the genuine concerns surrounding Google's dominance of the search world.

What practical difference does Google's compliance or non-compliance with this law actually achieve? None at all.

Those who DO want to see Google's privacy policy can already find it without any problems or obstacles, either by searching for it or clicking on the about page.

10:18 pm on May 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Actually, a "Privacy" link from the homepage or first prominent page is NOT the only way to "conspicuously post" a privacy policy. You can comply by posting a "functional hyperlink that is so displayed that a reasonable person would notice it." No other conditions are specified (as to whether it must be on the homepage or not).

Emphasis mine:

(b) The term "conspicuously post" with respect to a privacy policy shall include posting the privacy policy through any of the following:

(1) A Web page on which the actual privacy policy is posted if the Web page is the homepage or first significant page after entering the Web site. [You can choose not to comply with this if you want.]

...

(4) Any other functional hyperlink that is so displayed that a reasonable person would notice it.

7:20 am on May 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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You guys haven't seen anything yet. There is some serious litigation brewing against them over manual penalties.
11:33 am on May 31, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I was thinking of doing something a few months ago which I came concerned would conflict with the privacy policy, until it dawned on me that even if I put 'we now keep and use every piece of information about you' would mean I was conforming to my own statement, and in the real world, no-one cares. Even the Google engine would only care that a policy page exists.

We do to seem to miss the point. The policy is not about conforming to the internet rules, making sure you have a private policy page in the right place etc, its about businesses making sure they are handling private data properly.

2:21 am on June 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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..Do you have a count of how many mails Tasatullah Fahrouk sent out from Afghanistan?

No :(

But apparently not much, he does not even show up on our link tracking...

The funny thing is, I just checked the actual date I made that page, and it has said basically the same thing since 1999, yet we have never gotten a single comment on it.

Which leads me to believe that this tempest is like so many others that make the news - more agenda pushing than of any real concern about privacy.

..its about businesses making sure they are handling private data properly...

And that is where I think most of the "noisemakers" entirely miss the point. You can post just about anything you want, but unless you are actually doing something to protect privacy, it is all meaningless drivel.

..Any other functional hyperlink that is so displayed that a reasonable person would notice it...

Then we get into "what is reasonable". On our website we have our email address in about 4 to 6 places on almost every page, yet we have people call us - at the number listed on the website - asking what our email address is.

[edited by: Wlauzon at 2:27 am (utc) on June 1, 2008]

8:32 am on June 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

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The topic became hotter on Wednesday as SFGate reported fourteen consumer groups [sfgate.com], including EFF and the ACLU have requested Google to add the link to the home page.

Google's reluctance to make the policy more prominent by merely adding a seven-letter word to the home page is alarming, said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearing House.

If Google fails to do as requested, Rotenberg said that the various consumer groups will review their other options, which include pushing for legal action.

4:27 pm on July 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Update: Seems California won. Google has put the privacy link on their homepage.
4:35 pm on July 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Update: Seems California won. Google has put the privacy link on their homepage.

Which leads to a page with this statement in a large font .....

At Google, we’re committed to transparency and choice.

Which I assume was an attempt a humor ..... at least it made me laugh.

6:07 am on July 7, 2008 (gmt 0)

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You can read about it on CNET, Privacy advocates praise Google's new link [news.cnet.com].
7:58 am on July 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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System: The following message was spliced on to this thread from: http://www.webmasterworld.com/goog/3703270.htm [webmasterworld.com] by engine - 11:26 am on July 21, 2008 (utc +1)


I've just noticed the privacy link on Google's home page.
When did that appear?

ref:
[webmasterworld.com...]
[out-law.com...]