Google’s new privacy policy display violates California privacy protection law

by John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog

A recent change in the way Google presents its privacy policy violates the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) and the policy is ‘fundamentally deceptive,’ Consumer Watchdog told Attorney General Kamala Harris.

‘You have been a leader in the fight to protect Californians’ privacy, a right that is enshrined in our State Constitution,’ wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, in a letter today to the attorney general. ‘We ask that you continue this fight and take strong action against Google on both of these threats to our privacy.’

Consumer Watchdog’s letter is available here.

Previously, Google linked directly from its home page to Google’s privacy policy, as is required by CalOPPA. Now Google has inserted another page between the home page and the privacy policy.

‘The content of this page is designed to convey the impression that Google cares about security and privacy. However, it does not provide a meaningful explanation of how Google handles users’ data,’ wrote Simpson. ‘In order to get to the privacy policy the user must click on yet another hyperlink.  Google is clearly burying its privacy policy and offering distractions to users who are trying to reach the policy from Google’s home page.’

Even more troubling is what the privacy policy fails to make clear once you finally arrive at the privacy policy page, Consumer Watchdog said. Google’s privacy policy is deceptive because of what it omits.   The letter continued:

‘Nowhere in the policy does Google explain that it gathers the users’ data to amass ever more detailed information about them so it can maximize the amount it charges for ads.  Users of Google’s services are not its customers; they are its product.  The information about users — what they search for, what videos they view, how they use Google’s services, how they behave online, etc. — is what Google is using to sell ads.  This is the basis of its business model. This is why our data is gathered, but Google has chosen to omit this crucial detail from its explanation of how it uses data in its privacy policy.

‘Leaving out such an important point is in essence lying by omission.  It is a fundamentally deceptive explanation of what Google is doing with our data and why it is doing it.’

Google gives this explanation of why it gathers users data:

‘We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content ‘ like giving you more relevant search results and ads.’

Here is the link to the page Google has inserted between the home page and the privacy policy.