Comparing Search Engine Privacy Policy Visibility

Prompted by Google’s resistance to cluttering its homepage with a link to its privacy policy, I decided to take a quick tour of the major search engines to compare the relative visibility of their privacy policies.

AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have visible privacy policies on both their homepages and search results page (which is especially important if you use automatic search toolbars on browsers without visiting the homepage).

Neither Ask nor Google provide direct links to their privacy policy on their homepage or results pages.

[**UPDATE**  On June 18, 2008, Ask.com added a link to its privacy policy. On July 3, 2008, Google added a link to their privacy policy on both its homepage and search results page. Details here]

Details below:

AOL

AOL search homeThe main AOL homepage includes a link to its privacy policy. The link is at the very bottom of the page (requires some scrolling) in a standard box with other corporate and legal information. It appears in a font and color that matches the other URLs on the homepage.

AOL’s search homepage, however, does not include any link to a privacy policy. This page closely follows the aesthetics of Google’s homepage, presumably since Google provides AOL’s search results. There is a somewhat prominent link to “About This Page,” which, in turn, provides a link to AOL’s privacy policy. (Presumably most users access AOL search via the main homepage, not this secondary page.)

AOL’s search results page also includes a link to the privacy policy at the very bottom of the page.

Ask

Ask search homeAsk’s homepage does not include a link to a privacy policy. Nor is there a link if you click on “About” to learn more about Ask.com (one would have to click on a light-gray link for “Terms of Service” from there to find a link to Ask’s privacy policy).

Ask’s homepage does include a small, but prominent, link to Ask Eraser in the upper right corner, which opens a small window prompting the user to turn on/off the privacy-enhancing service, and also providing links to the Ask Eraser FAQ. While this provides privacy-enhancing functions, no link to the actual privacy policy is included in these prompts.

Ask’s search results page does not include a link to its privacy policy.

Update: On June 18, 2008, Ask.com added a link to its privacy policy on the homepage, as reflected in this archived version.

Google

Google search homeGoogle’s homepage does not include a link to a privacy policy. One must click on “About Google” to find a link to its privacy policy. This link is visible at the bottom of the page (no need to scroll on standard screens), and is in a font and color that matches the other URLs on page.

Google’s search results page does not include a link to its privacy policy.

Updated 7/4/08: Google now includes a link to its privacy policy on both its homepage and search results pages. Details here.

Microsoft

Microsoft search homeMicrosoft’s Live search homepage does include a link to its privacy policy. It is a small, gray link in the bottom left corner, which is visible without scrolling in a standard screen.

Microsoft’s search results page similarly includes a link to the privacy policy.

Yahoo!

The main Yahoo! homepage includes a link to its privacy policy. The link is at the very bottom of the page (requires some scrolling) in a standard box with other corporate and legal information. It appears in a font and color that matches the other URLs on the homepage, although slightly smaller.

Yahoo search homeYahoo!’s search homepage also includes a link to its privacy policy. The link is quite small and in a light color, but still prominent.

Yahoo!’s search results page also includes a link to the privacy policy at the very bottom of the page, albeit small and in a light font.

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