back to article World realizes Google home page is 'illegal'

Five years later, an army of privacy-minded watchdogs has suddenly realized the Google home page is illegal. Today, a coalition of privacy advocates - including the World Privacy Forum, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and the ACLU of Northern California - fired an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, pointing out …

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  1. Chad H.
    Thumb Down

    I think the more imporant question is

    Why these people have the time to scour websites to make sure every single link is of legal visibility and size... Dont they have any real productive work to do?

  2. Adam Azarchs

    Ummm...

    "We would also point out that if you search Google for Google's privacy policy, you've already given the company your IP address..."

    Or if you connect to their home page. Or to their privacy policy page. Arguing that google's ability to log your IP address before you read their privacy policy is unfair is totally ridiculous in my book.

  3. Stephen Hurd
    Alert

    Two steps too late...

    Eh? "Google for Google's privacy policy, you've already given the company your IP address. And you won't realize that until you read the privacy policy."

    If you load their home page to look for a policy link, you've already "given" them your IP address. Even if their home page IS their privay policy, you can't read it until you "give" them your IP address. If you don't realize that, their privacy policy most likely won't help you unless it has a paragraph which says "We already have your IP address and we will do whatever we want with it! Bwa Ha Ha!"

    Seriously, this may be the dumbest paragraph I've ever read in the body of an article on El Reg. If it's part of the quote from Marc Rotenberg, you should put quotes around it quick.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    So sue 'em...

    It IS America, after all... home of the litigious and land of the deep pockets.

    However, I definitely would think twice before going up against Google's lawyers. I'm pretty sure they think the law won't stand up to court scrutiny, and they're only too happy to take someone's money to test it.

    Paris, because she knows where the money is.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, honestly...

    ...just like with Michael Schumacher, arrogance can be justified if you ARE the best. And Google undeniably is - at pretty much everything it decides to do.

    It's the only company I've seen consistently release products which are not only free and innovative, but which actually make me question what I'm seeing because it's so unbelievably cool (google maps and streetview come to mind). There aren't that many other companies out there that have managed to make me sit back in my chair and go, "Holy shit!".

    There seems to be a tendency among Reg writers to slam Google, but other large companies (which I can't imagine are much better on the privacy front, which seems to be the main, if not only, fault found) tend to get a pass, or at least to not have their history aired in every article in which they're mentioned.

    Just because your favorite band signed to a major label doesn't mean their music sucks now.

  6. Cade Metz (Written by Reg staff)

    IP address

    Point taken. Corrected,

    Cade

  7. Chris C

    Innovative?

    "...and because the privacy policy is easily found by using the search box on the home page..."

    OK, so if you connect to their home page, they've already logged your IP address, let's get beyond that. According to Google, this is acceptable because the privacy policy can be found by using the product. Isn't that like packaged products where the in-the-box license states "By opening this box, you agree to this license"? By performing a search for the privacy policy, you have no way to review it and determine if you want to accept the risks or not (aside from having your IP address logged).

    And why is it that people always say how innovative Google is? I admit, they *ARE* innovative in one way -- they find new and innovative ways to bother us with advertisements. Make that two ways -- they always found a way to make people like it. I'll grant you that they provide a number of services on a cash-free basis (paid for by advertising). But seriously, which of their products is innovative? I just looked at their list of services and tools, and did not see one thing which could be labeled as "innovative". Products which are *NOT* innovative include: email, maps, satellite imagery (it didn't used to be free, but it was still available to those willing to pay for it), spreadsheets, word processors, translators, file indexing, file/video sharing, IM, etc. Oh yeah, and search. There is absolutely nothing innovative about searching the web. It was around long before Google. The word "innovative" has become so overused it has become meaningless.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you don't want to give your IP number

    there is always google cache, wait, no.

    A website is a bit like a shop isn't it, if they wish to use CCTV then they can.

    I think people do have an odd idea about the internet, it is not some great liberty device, if anything it is the thing that is driving the surveillance society.

    The ip number used for connection is going to be stored, and of course Google will probably not be so quick to dump the info. So, what do you do, well you keep changing ISP that's what :)

    I use to like altavista as the search engine of choice, but they gave up the ghost a while back. Ask has a nice interface, but search results are lousy. Problem, is most people think the net is google, or at least the browser is. Most home pages are set for Google.

    Really organizations should take search more seriously, and work on their own search engines that proxy through the major ones, centralize bookmarking, and run caching servers they actually optimize. Then we will start to see other search engines emerging, to rival Google.

    IT has always worked well by reinventing the wheel and building on the shoulders of giants, that is how the technology has advanced so fast. Do only one of those two activities, or apply them incorrectly and you account for most of the project failures.

  9. Joe Geer
    Paris Hilton

    Innovative?

    Let's see? Google analytics, no more need for Webtrends and free.

    Google maps first (first pan and zoom + satellite + street view) Show me another.

    Google Earth quick trip to anywhere on earth.

    web search. first and only that actually gets you what you want within a click or two. Metacrawler used to do pretty good too but the others? pretty well trash.

    Document sharing and the like are pretty boring but actually work well, especially if you are in different places. And, to the point, I go there in part because their home page isn't full of crap I don't want. (Like privacy policies I won't read) Try going to yahoo some time and get beaten to death with content!

    Sorry, I vote they are innovative.

    -Paris because she knows what "innovative" means!

  10. Steven Knox
    IT Angle

    Reasonably accessible

    From COPA, defining "cospicuously post":

    " (5) In the case of an online service, any other reasonably

    accessible means of making the privacy policy available for consumers

    of the online service."

    I'm sure Google would argue that their search box is reasonably accessible. I'm not so sure I agree.

    @Chris C:

    Isn't that like packaged products where the in-the-box license states "By opening this box, you agree to this license"? By performing a search for the privacy policy, you have no way to review it and determine if you want to accept the risks or not (aside from having your IP address logged).

    If that's your definition, then EVERY website with an access log (i.e, 99.999999999% of all websites) is illegal, because they all log your IP address before you have the opportunity to opt out. If COPA was really intended to include IP address logging, I'm quite sure it will be struck down as impossible to implement.

  11. Lou Gosselin

    google innovation=ms innovation=hardly

    "Google maps first (first pan and zoom + satellite + street view) Show me another."

    Actually the first poster was right, google didn't invent google maps, it just pulled a microsoft: rebranding it and removing the original product from the market.

    Google bought out "KeyHole" which as I recall had a product developed by NVidia which did almost exactly what google maps does today.

    I remember seeing the map panning/zooming on a news station covering some war news (I think this was back in '02). The graphics displayed had the KeyHole logo, which I looked up and was impressed to see that KeyHole had free trial accounts with which anyone could start exploring the earth from above.

    And, though I admit they were a bit later, tools such as mapquest do aerial imagery as well as google.

    It may be tempting for some to give google the credit for all "its technologies", however a closer look will probably reveal that they only deserve credit for popularizing the technology and not developing it.

    In case you are wondering, I dislike google because 1) I hate ads, 2) I like my privacy, both of which are exploited by their business model. Before anyone reply's "if you don't like it, then go somewhere else", well I am quite content using non-google services thank you very much.

    I just wish it was easier to remove all the google search backdoors in firefox (see about:config).

  12. Adam

    Do As I Say, Not As I Do

    I'm not bothered about the legallity of the situation, but it bugs me when Google penalise you for NOT having a link to your privacy policy on AdWords landing pages and then don't have it on their own home page.

    Part of the quality scoring on AdWords is the link to your privacy policy page amongst other factors

  13. Scott
    Flame

    Ridiculous Laws

    Why does this pointless piece of trash law exist in the first place? If privacy policies are so important then people won't visit the websites that don't conspicuously post them. The fact that Google is so extremely popular without having its privacy policy linked to in their home page just shows how little value this is to its customers.

    Seriously, the world would be just as well off without laws regulating every menial aspect of our lives.

  14. Q We
    Stop

    Re: Keyhole vs Google maps

    > google didn't invent google maps, it just pulled a microsoft

    > Google bought out "KeyHole" which as I recall had a product

    Keyhole's product became Google Earth, i.e. desktop app. They did not have a web version at the time.

    IIRC maps were developed either in-house, or by just 2 people in Australia (can't recall if guys already worked at Google or were hired to develop maps).

  15. Loki
    Paris Hilton

    Screw the privacy policy....

    .... whats their porn policy is my main concern!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Search for it?

    Actually, you can't search for it, because according to their privacy policy (I read a bit of it yesterday, for an unrelated reason), using their search box is accepting their terms and conditions.

    I thought at the time that you can't accept terms that you don't know about, then this article pops up. Weird.

  17. Sceptical Bastard

    Clean?

    Quote: Larry Page doesn't want a privacy link on that "beautiful clean home page."

    'Uncluttered when rendered' maybe but 'clean' never! Just 'view source' in your browser. If that is 'clean' code, I'm a banana! Also, it fails to validate and doesn't even have a Doctype Declaration.

    On the more general point, Google offers a free service which gives - arguably - the best search results on the web. The quid pro quo is that you see adverts, your use of the site is monitored and your usage data is stored. You pays yer money (or, rather, yer don't) and yer takes yer chances.

    The paranoid (and the dirty mac brigade) can use Tor or Anonymouse. Or eschew Google altogether.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    California -

    California, has to reduce teachers in schools has led to overpopulation in the classroom because of the spending of the governor. ALL highway roads are in desperate need of another lane in each direction (if not two). The state population complains about nearly anything. The most recent is the environment. However, California has 91 octane rather then 93 octance which burns cleaner. California attorneys must have something better to address then a company that provides them with a great deal of revenue. The sad part is that the majority of legal side of California are to wrapped up in themselves and how they look at the stoplight, to understand they have Weight Lifter for a Govenor who only claim to fame politically is to be part of a old Robber Barron family. The lawyers should be doing other things, that actually take intellect and perseverence to obtain good. Rather then sitting on the toliet and noticing something that is missing on a website.

  19. Big Al
    Alert

    But there *is* a link to it...

    ... on my personalised iGoogle front page. Right next to the 'About' link.

    Strange but true ;)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Yawn....

    Nothing to see here move along.....

    Seriously, do someone people have nothing better to do?

    At least I got a laugh out of it, Marc Rotenberg's quote should go on an El Reg hall of fame :

    "I've been teaching privacy law for twenty years, and in any of these disputes, there will always be two sides,"

    ok..............

  21. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Google's Privacy Policy...

    ...is obviously a private matter. We shouldn't intrude.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google are not alone

    I checked a few web sites. BBC, TheRegister, TheInquirer and they all have a privacy policy on their front page. World Of Warcraft(Europe) are just like Google, I had to click on "Legal Documents" before I found the Privacy Policy.

  23. Chris Campbell

    I'm feeling lucky

    It is actually available from their homepage with only a single click, (and a little typing). Put 'google privacy policy' into the search box and click I'm feeling lucky.

  24. Frank Bough
    Heart

    I Heard

    ...that if you type 'google' into Google's search box you can BREAK THE INTERNET!

  25. Rodney Sloan
    Paris Hilton

    And she asked...

    Where do I find the google page? (lol)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Sorry,

    It's just that my poor brain cannot take a sentence with both "Google" and "Privacy" in it.

    Now I need a pint.

  27. Eddie
    Stop

    Who gives a toss?

    Those who know that there should be a link will be well aware of google's casual attitude to our privacy*. Those that don't are either unaware of how we are tracked on the internet, or don't care. These last two groups are the vast majority, so Google will keep on getting away with their nefarious practices, in much the way Microsoft did, until the media realise what's happening (as with this article) and start publicising it. Unfortunately, since google now control our access to (or discovery of) most online information, how much good this will do is now questionable.

    *Except google don't have a casual attitude to our privacy - they have a deeply ingrained interest into how to destroy it as quickly as possible under the guise of being nice, sorry, doing no evil.

    http://www.scroogle.org/cgi-bin/scraper.htm ftw.....

  28. Johnny G

    What they should do is...

    ... wait until the idiots tyring to enforce this rediculous thing that no one will ever click on (let alone read or even care about) have spent tons of time and effort and money, then put the link on.

    All their money down the pan.

    Wait until it's gone quiet and then take the link off and start all over again and let them waste their cash.

  29. James Pickett
    Thumb Down

    Barrel scraping

    Those Californian lawyers are sharp, though. How long has Google been around now..?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Google stuff is free?

    My oh my oh my, the google fanbois are out in force today. Google gives away absolutely nothing for free; it's all paid for by advertising. Fanbois = clueless dolts.

  31. Aron A Aardvark
    Stop

    Is there really a privacy issue here?

    What would Google do with millions of IP addresses it collects every day? Can an IP address be connected to a specific person, in households where several people are using the same computer?

    The same privacy arguments have been raised against GCHQ/NSA collections. Yes they do indeed have the ample capability to collect the data but do they have the time/resources to analyse it all?

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    You know I never actually looked before...

    but there at the bottom of my Google home page is a privacy policy link. What's this all about then?

    Grumpy Old Git

  33. Nick

    Who gives...

    ... a flying flook. Two clicks away is plenty enough. Sounds like a money making scheme for the legal eagles to me.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    The Legal Team must be on an extended smoke break, again.

    Google Privacy Policy

    Last modified: October 14, 2005

    At Google we recognize that privacy is..................

  35. greg
    Thumb Down

    This is news? Who cares!?

    Seriously, what a waste of time. They have a direct link one click from the homepage and you can search for it anyway.

    If users were so worried about their privacy, then the Internet wouldn't exist in the state it is.

    Besides, an IP address is NOT a private piece of information, so these kids are barking up the wrong tree anyway. Your IP is owned by the ISP.

  36. Brad
    Dead Vulture

    California

    The real world, the one outside Cali, doesn't give two shits what you think is illegal.

  37. danimal

    Wrong!

    It's actually three clicks off the homepage. One to an about Google page, one to a privacy policy page, and one to actually get the text of their policy. At least it was for me when I just tried it. Does that make it tripley (sp?) illegal?

  38. Simon Greenwood

    Of course Google indexes your email

    Because you agreed to that when you signed up for a Gmail account, and it's one of the ways that Google collects information for its advertising and for its intelligence services. Can we please stop thinking that this is anything shocking. You are paying for using any of Google's services by contributing to their intelligence, and if that isn't acceptable, don't use Google. Easy.

  39. danimal

    And another thing . . .

    For those of you saying you just need to "search Google" you can't without accepting their privacy policy, as others have pointed out. But secondly, typing in "Google Privacy Policy" and clicking "I'm feeling lucky" which brings up the top result gives you the page before their Privacy policy. So anyway you slice it it's somewhat hidden. That said it's not like anyone smart enough to understand a privacy policy couldn't find the Google privacy policy.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Google stuff is free

    Oh noes! I had no idea that there was advertising!@$ Now I will go die in shame!

    Of course they pay for it with advertising, idiot. That's what they do; it would be impossible to do otherwise. But you don't have to give them cash up front, which makes them different from some of their competition (analytics comes to mind).

    At any rate, I expect AC to stop reading the Reg, as it's funded the same way.

  41. b
    Happy

    Can we please stop thinking that this is anything shocking.

    I will deliver your real post for free if you let me read it all.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Its funny

    How the Google fanbois don't realise that Google eat babies for a living. The point about the IP address is that they use it alongside other things like the Google cookies and your logins to other services like gmail in order to track absolutely everything you ever do on Google. Remember that time you searched for donkey porn - you might not remember it, but Google do, alongside a fully indexed e-mail back catalogue. They do a lot of tracking and recording of information that you probably don't expect. Try this simple experiment. Log out of your gmail account and clear cookies. Now go onto youtube and try and watch a video marked as adults only. You will get the page that requires you to log in or provide age verification. Don't enter anything. Log into gmail, and repeat the exercise. This time you just get a button to confirm age verification - it knows who you are from the gmail login. All this information is being used in a very similar way to people like Phorm, to improve advertising revenue for Google.

    But now think of another scenario, someone decides you look suspicious on the tube and you get arrested for being a suspect terrorist (eg http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/09/17/dna_purge/). Now, since you were arrested, you now have to declare this on visa applications to the US, this gets you on some low level terror watch list in the "Land of the Free"TM. An investigator uses this arrest as justification to subpoena your Google records, this shows that you once searched for the Al Qaeda manuals (eg http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/05/30/notts_al_qaeda_manual_case/). The US find this interesting enough that they pass the information back to the UK police, who now have reasonable suspicion that you have committed an offence, and arrest you (again). They then find a copy of the manual on your hard drive, and under the new laws you go to jail for 4 years.

    This might sound crazy, but there are enough precedents of these new laws being misused (old man removed from Labour party conference using terror laws for example). All you need to do is combine in some Google/law enforcement cooperation (forced by the courts if necessary) and you are basically screwed...

    It's nice to live in such an Orwellian society.

  43. DirkGently
    Alert

    RE: You know I never actually looked before...

    Grumpy, try google, not igoogle.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    um...

    My home page is set to: http://www.google.co.uk/ig (iGoogle). At the bottom of this page is a direct link to their privacy policy. It's only if I click on 'classic home' that I'm presented with the 'clean' version.

    Is this really what all the fuss is about? Indeed if I really want to know what the legalese bullshit says I click on about and there it is at the bottom again. What a pointless waste of time and money to go chasing after this.

  45. Jo

    it takes two

    "and in any of these disputes, there will always be two sides"

    I would certainly hope so otherwise you would be in the unwise and rather expensive pursuit of self-litigation without any orgasmic pleasure

  46. Slaine
    Black Helicopters

    instead of chasing serious internet fraud, we get this sh1te

    ah - the good old - "if we can't beat them, persuade some small minded toady barstool slime merchant quango to litigate on our behalf" aroma surfaces once more.

    The difference here is trust. I trust Google not to use the information against me. Not something that certain competitors enjoy.

    I respectfully suggest that the Californian Coalition declare their motives before launching this attack on what is, in my view beyond a shadow of a doubt, the single most trustworthy and long established source of reliable information ever made available. (except of course for www.donkeydanglybits.com)

  47. J
    IT Angle

    Clean, my...

    Well, lots of white space indeed.

    But I counted 15 links there (accessing from Brazil, it includes a "Go to Google Brasil", or it might have been "just" 14). What harm would another, small one cause?

    <joke>You guys don't understand. Google does no evil, therefore it is implied that your privacy is safe, so why should they bother quickly telling you about such policies? </joke>

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    Californication (adj)

    Having a misguided sense of one's own importance.

  49. John F***ing Stepp

    Never heard of Google Scraper, eh?

    You will just have to google for the term.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Even Cleaner:

    Ad Progs - BS - About - Privy

    Business minions will decipher the BS part right away,

    though can't vouch for the privy part being that clean...

    Paris, because she always comes clean.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy? Google? Err...

    I don't get it - is there some connection here? I didn't realise Google even recognised the concept of an individuals privacy - and in this day and age of (paranoia about, but also the reality of) identity theft and so on it's quite understandable why they wouldn't go out of their way to put a blatant link which would draw everyones attention to something which, in essence, they do not have. They certainly seem to have done splendid job posting comments on here though, ahem. Clean page, ruined by one extra link... - C'mon, cow stupid does that sound, when you actually think about it...(?).

    And it's not simply about 'them' 'having' 'your' IP - don't be so bloody simple some of you.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No probs...

    https://ssl.scroogle.org

    Problem solved.

  53. William Bronze badge
    Happy

    Well its nice to see

    All the Google employees out in force tonight. Makes a change from the usual Microsoft crew. Hi guys!

  54. whoami
    IT Angle

    WTH

    Do People still use the main google page, then WTH is the search bar on your browser for. Even If you use Firefox, You get the google page for Firefox by default.

    I cant remember the last time I saw the main page with those nice graphics that celebrate x where x = some sort of celebration or holiday. so, I dont get this at all !!

  55. Darryl
    Thumb Up

    It's easy

    Go to www.yahoo.com and search for "google privacy policy"

  56. Matthew Ellen
    Stop

    iGoogle link

    The iGoogle privacy policy link isn't what you think it is. (To paraphrase the Princess Bride.)

    The URL at the bottom of the iGoogle page links to the iGoogle Privacy Note (http://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/help/privacy_fusionph.html), which is not the privacy policy. This page has a link to the privacy page (http://www.google.co.uk/privacy.html) which, again, isn't the privacy policy. The privacy page has a link to http://www.google.co.uk/privacypolicy.html, which is the privacy policy.

    Not so smug now, eh?

    Not that it matters. As someone pointed out, the internet was not created to be a bastion of liberty, it was created via the USA's military. I'm sure Sir Tim (co-)created the web to be a wonderful place for science and research, unfortunately the public and commerce got their grubby paws on it. When stupidity and greed collide, there's not much room for common sense.

    And to those of you who have said "Oh! Well if privacy was so important to people they should know to read privacy policies." I say tosh! If people don't know that their privacy can be impinged by using Google, and the ramifications of this, they need to be educated. It's not necessarily their fault that they think they can trust Google.

  57. Nanki Poo
    Linux

    Why the IP apology...?

    I may have missed some stuff here because for the first time ever I scrolled from the Reggie apology to here... but why the apology for the IP logging reference?

    Even if they do store the IP's of everyone who just visits for a year (probably unlikely, not really commercially fruitful), there is a difference between visiting the google website, and trying to explain that the reason you searched for Peroxide, Heaven and Decadence was because you're a homosexual, not a virgin-seeking bomber. After all, Inspector Knacker of the Yard would never try someone on a trumped up charge just for FUD would they... or shoot them...

    It is exactly the responses of ignoramus like those above that shows why people SHOULD read the privacy policies and not think they know everything without doing it! Information stored is retrievable by those who would hurt you.

    I use Google, but I know the terms I do it under... do you?

    Penguin coz he's coot, and I don't want to seem like a bitch. ;)

  58. Dave Morris

    @ It's Easy

    Very good answer: not only can you find Google's privacy policy, Yahoo has decided to include thiers on thier home page, so you can read it, before you use the service to find Goggle's privacy policy.

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's get real

    Google is now up to 14 links on it's home page. One more isn't going to make a difference. They are just playing tough guy refusing to put on a privacy link.

    Or are they trying to hide something? I think I'll go read their privacy statement and see what's hidden in there. Or maybe they are just planning on sneaking something in later?

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @so sue em

    Ummm not where I am it isn't.

    The internet is not America(n).

    Think before you bring out your cliched one-liners

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