Five years later, an army of privacy-minded watchdogs has suddenly realized the Google home page is illegal.
But EPIC's Marc Rotenberg doesn't buy it. "I've been teaching privacy law for twenty years, and in any of these disputes, there will always be two sides," he told The Reg. "But I think that the straightforward reading is that the requirement is you put a link on your home page. And the best evidence of this is that's basically what every other commercial web site does."
The latest Google privacy debate first turned up last week in a series of blog posts - here and here - from The New York Times. As the The Times tells it, Google founder Larry Page doesn't want a privacy link on that "beautiful clean home page." Page and company recently applied to join the Network Advertising Initiative - an online ad trade group - and though the group recommends home page privacy links, Google told the group it wouldn't heed this recommendation.
Meanwhile, California’s Office of Privacy Protection is making a similar recommendation. "We advocate Google putting a link on its home page," office head Joanne McNabb told us. "That's become standard practice in the industry - more than standard practice." But McNabb's office has no power to regulate. A Google crackdown would have to come from the California Attorney General's office - or a civil suit.
We see little difference between a home page link and an About page link. People so rarely read legalese, wherever it turns up. The bigger issue is that Google refuses to change its privacy policies. The company still indexes your email. It still stores your IP address alongside your search history for at least 18 months. And if it does "anonymize" your IP address after 18 months - and that's a big if - it still refuses to anonymize the whole thing.
Or maybe this obsession has everything to do with arrogance. Google likes to think it's different from the rest. ®