European Union Questions Google's Data Retention Policy

May 28, 2007 - 9:54 am 0 by
Filed Under Google

A WebmasterWorld thread calls attention to an article about the length of time that Google is retaining data for user searches.

European data protection officials have raised concerns that Google could be contravening European privacy laws by keeping data on internet searches for too long.

The Article 29 working party, a group of national officials that advises the European Union on privacy policy, sent a letter to Google last week asking the company to justify its policy of keeping information on individuals’ internet searches for up to two years.

A number of questions have been raised about how Google should proceed with the data -- or if it's even their responsibility. Members cite the absence of clear laws to define what can be done properly and in what country.

Laws have to be wrote before google can react. Right now there is not much law governing that type of information.

Another article mentions that Google does protect its user privacy, and in fact plans to anonymize data after 18-24 months. That is exactly what is said by Peter Fleischer, Google's global policy counsel:

Fleischer said Google needs to log details of user searches for security purposes - to protect its search engine from hackers. But he said the company has taken recent measures to improve user privacy. Server logs, for example, are "anonymized" after 18 to 24 months.

Peter Fleischer even mentions in the Google blog that there are ways to opt-out of web history and to maintain your privacy when using Google.

Our policy puts the user in charge. It is not something Google seeks to control. At any time they can turn off personal search, pause it, remove specific web history items or remove the whole lot.

I think that's fair, though perhaps it should be an opt-in procedure rather than an opt-out one.

Discussion continues at WebmasterWorld.


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