Google to make search logs anonymous after 18 to 24 months

Google is changing its policies on storing information about its users. Each time a user conducts a search on Google, a database logs his or her keyword search, IP address and certain other bits of data stored in cookies. Currently, this information is stored indefinitely, but the new policy, which Google plans to implement over the next few months, will make the data slightly more anonymous to protect the privacy of its users.

“Previously, we kept this data for as long as it was useful,” Google officials said in statement. “Unless we're legally required to retain log data for longer, we will anonymize our server logs after a limited period of time.”

Google says it will remove the last eight bits of a user’s IP address 18 months to 24 months following the initial recording of information. All the bits before it, however, will remain intact and may still give authorities good indication on the original user. Even with the last eight bits of an IP address unknown, it is still possible to determine the approximate location and internet service provider of the user.

“Logs anonymization does not guarantee that the government will not be able to identify a specific computer or user, but it does add another layer of privacy protection to our users' data,” Google said to the media.

The U.S. government has been putting pressure on search companies to keep records of user activities in an effort to maintain national security. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, are pushing in the opposite direction and lobby for companies such as Google to maintain no records at all.

“By anonymizing our server logs after 18-24 months, we think we're striking the right balance between two goals: continuing to improve Google's services for you, while providing more transparency and certainty about our retention practices,” the Google statement said.

"We can't expect users to use common sense. That would eliminate the need for all sorts of legislation, committees, oversight and lawyers." -- Christopher Jennings

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