Compliance Management, Privacy

Google chief exec targeted over privacy policy

Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt has been targeted by privacygroups over the way the company allegedly fails to fully advertise itsprivacy policy.

The privacy groups, headed by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC),have written to Schmidt accusing the Silicon Valley company of breakingCalifornian privacy law. They argue that Google must legally place alink to its privacy policy on its homepage.

Currently, interested parties must click on "About Google" and then scroll to the bottom of the resulting page to find the link.

Google has regularly been in the firing line on privacy issues.Campaigners have criticized it for the way it stores and usesindividuals' information. Concerns have also been raised over GoogleHealth, a hosted service launched last month which allows users tostore and manage information regarding their health online. Critics saythere is a risk individuals' medical information could end up in thewrong hands.

Fourteen privacy groups have signed the letter to Schmidt, which waspublished by the PRC yesterday. They are all organizations fromCalifornia and Washington DC and include the Center for FinancialPrivacy and Human Rights, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, theElectronic Privacy Information Center and the World Privacy Forum.

In their letter, the privacy groups argued: "California law requiresthe operator of a commercial website to 'conspicuously post its privacypolicy on its website.' The straightforward reading of that law is thatGoogle must place the word 'privacy' on the web page linkedto its privacy policy."

The groups said that nearly every major company places a link to theirprivacy policy on their homepage. They asked Schmidt to comply "as soonas possible".

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic PrivacyInformation Center said: "This is not rocket science. The word'privacy' is not going to take up a lot of space on the Googlehomepage."

Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, said:"Consumers should be able to access Google's privacy policy with justone click from its homepage -- this is an industry-wide best practicethat Google is not exempt from."

The letter to Schmidt claimed its reluctance to act was "alarming."

Google could offer no comment at the time of writing.

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