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The search company may be breaking European law by keeping search records too long

The European Union's data protection watchdog, known as the Article 29 Working Group, has issued a letter warning Google that its data retention policies may be in violation of EU laws.

The BBC reports that EU data protection commissioners who serve on the Article 29 panel are concerned about the search giant's practice of keeping personal search records for two years.

Google tracks and stores all queries, associating search terms and history with individual users based on their unique IP address. While the company has stated that the records are used to monitor and improve its search-related services, critics charge that the data could be used to profile users and pry into their personal lives.

The EU effort to reign in Google's privacy policies has the backing of the Union's Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, who has affirmed that he "considers those questions raised by the letter to be appropriate and legitimate," according to an EU spokesman.

A Google spokeswoman confirmed that the EU privacy group is concerned about the company "keeping information about people's search for a definite period of time ranging from 18 to 24 months." She told the BBC that Google plans to address the EU complaints prior to the data protection panel's next meeting in late June.



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If everyone jumps off a bridge
By MaK2000 on 5/26/2007 1:48:27 PM , Rating: 1
Every large company has practices like these. I don't see the big deal as long as they have security measure to make sure the information stays internal. Next thing the civil rights groups in the US will be all over this too.




RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By jak3676 on 5/26/2007 1:58:35 PM , Rating: 2
I think the problem is that not matter how good your policy is - eventually this type of information makes its way into the public. It often makes its way into the public domain illegally, but I'd still rather it not be kept in the first place. Google clearly has a need to keep search history for a variety of reasons, but can't tehy do it without using a uniqly identifiable marker (IP address). To be a devil's advocate to my own point, I suppose most of us are not on a static, public IP anyway so this may be irrelavant.


RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By Hare on 5/26/2007 2:06:23 PM , Rating: 5
Google also uses cookies so the IP address is not the only identifier. And those cookies don't expire in a day or two...

Imo, Google is an outstanding company and I use their services a lot but I'm not too comfortable with their data mining.


RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By Snuffalufagus on 5/26/2007 7:02:24 PM , Rating: 3
I used to be a huge fan of Google but now I'm a little weary of their practices and have started to avoid using any Google services as much as possible. I just don't trust them any longer (or any company that wants to accrue as much information on their users as they do). I do use the search engine for work as it does still seems to be the most efficient but I'm really hoping one of the competitors will eventually get their searches figured out so there's an alternative to go to.


RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By TomZ on 5/26/2007 9:06:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think you guys are a bit on the paranoid side. Unless you're doing something illegal, I hardly think that any information that google has, even if used in the worst possible way, could cause you any harm. The worst thing that could happen is that you are served up with more targeted ads. Some would argue that is actually a benefit to you, compared with non-targeted ads.


RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By P4blo on 5/26/2007 9:35:36 PM , Rating: 2
Err you might be surprised just how many people do illegal things on the net while barely thinking about it.

The U.S. government has already tried to get its paws on Google's data. How long before they get their way and the men in suits come with search warrants because a machine from your IP has been searching for music or film torrents? I'm sure Google realises as soon as they get infiltrated by the Government, their popularity is going to take a huge and rapid nose dive though. Maybe that will keep intruders at bay, the sheer damage it would do to a big search company. Although it would be funny to see Google's stocks suddenly turn to mush, dot com boom/bust style. I guess they've probably made safer ground by now though.

Perhaps if Google didn't store so long term it would be a less juicy target for those who seek to snoop!


RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By TomZ on 5/26/2007 10:06:33 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Err you might be surprised just how many people do illegal things on the net while barely thinking about it.

Are you suggesting that people unknowingly break laws when they use the Internet? That's kind of a stretch... Common sense dictates 95% of what people need to know about the law; people know when they are doing something wrong.


By Christopher1 on 5/27/2007 7:05:03 AM , Rating: 3
Actually, that isn't always true, and someone can violate the laws by accident. Such as if you accidentally go to CP sites, I know that people say "That's impossible!" but I have done it quite a few times in the past 7 years while searching for adult pornography.

If I added up ALL the times I have done that..... it would probably be in the 1000-zone right now.

It just hard to avoid some illegal things, and some things that aren't illegal like lolicon porn which I also look at, the government will STILL try to get you in trouble if you are looking at it because no one has challenged the blatently illegal laws yet.


RE: If everyone jumps off a bridge
By Snuffalufagus on 5/26/2007 11:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
It's not really being paranoid, it's more that I just don't really condone the practice and when at all possible I'll choose not to support such a company. Granted, if I knew exactally what data points they are collecting, or if it was anonymous data collected (not tracked on IP), then I wouldn't mind so much. Preferably they would make it a choice for the users, if they elect to participate then they can collect data, if not then they don't.


By Christopher1 on 5/27/2007 7:11:41 AM , Rating: 2
Well, they have it in their privacy practices that they tell you absolutely everything that they collect, however I am not quite sure that the privacy policies that they have are totally honest about everything that they collect.

That's why I have installed CustomizeGoogle on Firefox, and only use Google on Firefox.


By Oregonian2 on 5/29/2007 3:15:57 PM , Rating: 2
And that alternative won't be doing the same things for the same reasons?


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