People often complain about the length, legalese and other excesses of Privacy policies. And, feeling thus, many of us will readily admit that we don’t bother reading them (along with those software update agreements so many of us click Accept on without reading word one).

In plain language writing workshops I recently for financial service professionals, I kept hearing that it didn’t matter how clearly you wrote some things, because most people were going to assume they weren’t worth reading and ignore them anyway.

I strongly believe that the more writers of policies and other complex info can show that they’re thinking of the reader, the better chance their customers will start taking time to read it.

So it was nice to get the email from Google this week, saying that they’d taken more than 60 separate privacy policies across their operation and replaced them with just this new one, which will take effect March 1.

Along with their obvious concern for making things simpler by cutting down on length considerably, I also noted on clicking through their previous privacy policies that their tone of voice in this document has also improved over the years. While it was progressive even for 12 years ago – using second-person voice to speak directly to the reader and fairly simple language – you can see the evolution of their customer tone of voice if you look at the 2000 version aside the update. Here’s an example:


Compare the opening lines of the 2000 policy:

Google respects and protects the privacy of the individuals that use Google’s search engine services (“Google Search Services”). Individually identifiable information about you is not willfully disclosed to any third party without first receiving your permission, as explained in this privacy policy (“Privacy Policy”).

To these, from the new one:

There are many different ways you can use our services – to search for and share information, to communicate with other people or to create new content. When you share information with us, for example by creating a Google Account, we can make those services even better – to show you more relevant search results and ads, to help you connect with people or to make sharing with others quicker and easier. As you use our services, we want you to be clear how we’re using information and the ways in which you can protect your privacy.


See how the new one is so much more direct? And given Google’s strength in the marketplace, I’m sure their legal team has poked every hole they can think of into it, and still found the new one to hold up legally as well. I cannot imagine them taking the risk of releasing this without doing their homework. (I’ve seen compliance officers worry much more about wordings that had a lot less risk attached to them should a legal challenge arise.)

What do you think? Leave your comment…

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