The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) took effect last Wednesday on January 1. And while I received numerous “our privacy policy has changed” emails, it was very challenging to find websites with actual “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” buttons or links.

I finally started seeing them at the end of last week. However, the notices were often very inconspicuous, perhaps as a test of minimum compliance. Indeed, it appears many publishers are trying to call as little attention as possible to the data opt-out option for consumers.

Not making it easy for users to find the opt-out entry point

If you’re not actively looking, you won’t find them

A fairly representative example comes from Time’s homepage. The “Do Not Sell” link is sixth on the list, in the far right column at the very bottom of the homepage. This is not something that would be casually discovered by most site visitors; there’s lots and lots of scrolling required.

It was the essentially same for Pandora, Hulu, The NY Times, and many others. The required links are at the very bottom of their respective homepages, in small fonts.

Netflix hides its opt-out language behind a plain-vanilla “privacy” link on its homepage. The same is true for Amazon. CCPA links are also very difficult to find on both Google and Facebook. Those not actively looking for them won’t find them.

‘Do Not Sell’ links in very small fonts

A user-friendly example — sort of

Conde Nast publications were more user friendly. On Wired, for example, a pop-up notification asks you accept an updated privacy policy; and shortly thereafter a “cookie banner” appears with a relatively conspicuous “Do Not Sell” button at the bottom of the page (see below).

In my unscientific survey of sites I frequent, Conde Nast’s treatment of “Do Not Sell” was the most consistent with the language of the statute, compared with what I would call “grudging” compliance by most of the other publishers, which appear to have consciously buried the links.

There’s no “opt-out” option at all for Amazon, Google and Facebook, which instead point to other mechanisms to control user privacy. Generally, they’re also taking the position that they’re not “selling” personal data. There’s a good deal still to be clarified — and there’s a longer discussion involving Google, Facebook and Amazon — but retargeting is clearly implicated by CCPA.

Conde Nast more ‘clear and conspicuous’

What does ‘clear and conspicuous’ mean exactly?

The statute itself requires publishers to “Provide a clear and conspicuous link on the business’s Internet homepage, titled ‘Do Not Sell My Personal Information,’ to an Internet Web page that enables a consumer, or a person authorized by the consumer, to opt-out of the sale of the consumer’s personal information.”

We can debate the meaning of the phrase “clear and conspicuous” but what most of these publishers are doing, save Conde Nast and a couple of others I found, probably doesn’t qualify. They’re playing hide the ball.

Page 2: dense text and fine print

Lots of exhausting fine print

For those intrepid users who locate the links and click through, the pages that follow are often replete with fine print and complexity. Even Conde Nast, on the better end of the spectrum, presents the above potentially confusing screens. (The highlighting is mine.)

After you “confirm my choices,” you’re taken to a form and required to (wait for it) . . . provide a bunch of personal information. You then receive an email and are required to offer a second confirmation of your choice. All of this takes you away from the article you originally wanted to read.

Different publishers and their software vendors offer somewhat different treatments and user experiences. CBS offers the easiest opt-out — once you find the link. But there’s frequently lots of dense text and legalese, all of which is going to be exhausting for the average user to contend with. As I’ve argued before, users just seeking read an article are not going to want to take five minutes, at a minimum, to do all of this.

Multiply that by 10 or 20 or 50 sites in a day or week and most users will just carry on as usual for convenience and to avoid “privacy fatigue” — that is if they looked for the “Do Not Sell” links in the first place. Most publishers are probably hoping users either won’t notice or simply give up.

Personal information required to prevent a transfer of personal information

Educate, don’t ‘comply’

These initial efforts to comply with CCPA may uphold the letter but not the spirit of the law. Hiding links at the bottom of the page doesn’t inspire consumer trust or bring more transparency to users. While the path forward is complex and still murky, smart marketers are embracing privacy and not fighting it.

As a practical matter, I also believe these “bottom of the homepage” placements won’t been deemed sufficiently conspicuous and publishers will be compelled to make them more prominent, as well as potentially simplify the entire process. Rather than hoping users won’t notice, publishers and technology providers should be educating them about the benefits of not opting-out — in language that non-lawyers can understand.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.


The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) goes into effect on January 1, 2020, but it won’t be enforced until July. There has been much hand-wringing, anticipation and attempts to dilute the legislation by industry.

Anticipating a major change

The consensus among marketers and experts is that CCPA represents a major shift for U.S. digital privacy law that will make it tougher for companies to obtain and use data – especially third-party data brokers and programmatic networks. There’s also an expectation that consumers will exercise their new privacy rights under CCPA.

A brief summary of those rights is as follows:

  • The right to obtain disclosure of the categories and specifics of any personal information collected by the site
  • An explanation of how the consumer’s data is used and whether it is being sold
  • The right to opt-out of a sale of the personal data to third parties
  • The right to request that a business delete any personal information
  • The right to not be discriminated against because the consumer has exercised his/her rights under CCPA

GDPR experience a preview of burdensome forms

CCPA is often discussed in the same breath as Europe’s GDPR. At the highest level, the key difference between CCPA and GDPR is the latter’s opt-in requirement for data collection and usage, while CCPA is an opt-out framework. I was recently in Europe and have seen the many and varied GDPR opt-in, cookie permission forms that one encounters upon every visit to a new website.

They’re confusing, sometimes painful and, according to my informal discussions with people in Europe, often met by indifference from consumers simply seeking to get to a desired piece of content. This is not to say that people don’t care about privacy – it’s just that many publishers are putting a significant burden on consumers who don’t fully understand all the cookie categories and their functions.

Cookie choice screens under GDPR

Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.


Amazon Prime Day is the hard start to the back-to-school shopping season – this year more than ever.

But the bigger trend is that Prime Day is no longer confined to Amazon. It pervades the entire retail industry, with shopping interest heightening across multiple marketing channels.

Including Google search.

My colleagues and I took a look at some of the biggest trends influencing back-to-school search marketing, from Prime Day and its halo effect, to newer Google Ad formats and targeting capabilities. Here are some results of Prime Day’s impact in the Google search channel, what they mean for the coming weeks and other major trends to capitalize on this back-to-school season and beyond.

1. Prime Day led to high search interest on Google

It’s no surprise Prime Day hype reached a new high this year, and Google Trends demonstrates it. Google Trend scores are relative to one another, meaning a 100 – which occurred during this year’s Prime Day week – represents the peak popularity of a search term over a period of time. Relatively speaking, searches for “Prime Day deals” on Google were 26 percent less popular in 2018.

Google continues to chip away at traditional shopping ads that display for broad queries on mobile. The replacement is the more visually engaging Showcase Shopping ad. This trend accelerated prior to the holiday season last year, meaning this is the first back-to-school shopping season where Showcase ads will be a major traffic driver.

Here’s a look at Showcase Shopping ad impressions for a sample of several hundred retailers over the past 18 months:

Showcase Shopping how-to’s I’ve shared on Search Engine Land for help on navigating the format.

7. Back-to-school is a key use case for Detailed Demographics

Back-to-school is also a good time to use Google’s Detailed Demographics with your shopping campaigns. Of particular interest during this season is the segment for parents—broken down by parents of infants (0-1), toddlers (1-3), preschoolers (4-5), grade-schoolers (6-12), and teens (13-17).

If your catalog spans all these age groups as well as adults without kids, it might make sense to segment your campaigns or ad groups by demographic targets, to hone in on the products most relevant to each audience.

Back to school, back to holiday planning

Once back-to-school reaches its end in September, the year-end holidays will enter the consumer conscience. Drive the best performance from your back-to-school campaigns now, while starting to shift your time into holiday planning mode. More to come in my column as the holiday season nears.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Sidecar. He analyzes digital marketing performance and strategic direction for large retailers across verticals, focusing on data visualizations and advanced account segmentation. He is responsible for deriving meaning from numbers and determining how to use those insights to drive marketing decision making. Steve is especially close to Google’s new innovations impacting Shopping and paid search. He has a master’s degree in data analytics and contributes to Search Engine Land as well as Sidecar Discover, the publication by Sidecar that covers research and ideas shaping digital marketing in retail.