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Google responds to the EU by dropping six months of logs

Following criticism from privacy groups, Google is again revising its policy on how long its servers will retain search data generated from users of its websites. Under its new policy, Google will anonymize its log data after 18 months.

The move was fuelled by a letter from the European Union in May, warning the search giant that its data retention policies may be in violation of EU laws. Months earlier, in March, Google said that it was changing its practice from keeping user data indefinitely to only 18 to 24 months. After that period, Google would remove the last eight bits of a user’s IP address, with all the remaining bits retained for the purpose of approximating user information for authorities.

In this latest change, Google will cut its retention by up to eight months by keeping logs for a maximum of 18 months. Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel for Google, writes in the official blog, “The Article 29 Working Party, an advisory panel composed of representatives from all of the E.U.'s national data protection authorities, has sent us a letter in response to our commitment to anonymize server logs. In it, they're asking us to provide further information about our new policy, and to explain why we feel that the time period of 18 to 24 months is ‘proportionate’ under European data protection principles.”

Google explained to the EU that its server logs are used to improve its search algorithms, defending systems from attacks, protecting users from spam, phishing and to respond and aid law enforcement.

“After considering the Working Party's concerns, we are announcing a new policy: to anonymize our search server logs after 18 months, rather than the previously-established period of 18 to 24 months. We believe that we can still address our legitimate interests in security, innovation and anti-fraud efforts with this shorter period,” writes Fleischer. “However, we must point out that future data retention laws may obligate us to raise the retention period to 24 months. We also firmly reject any suggestions that we could meet our legitimate interests in security, innovation and anti-fraud efforts with any retention period shorter than 18 months.”

Fleischer also says that the company is considering the Working Party's concerns regarding cookie expiration periods, and will make an announcement on its new and improved digital baked goods in the coming months.

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Why keep the data by IP address anyway?
By Scrogneugneu on 6/13/2007 9:58:37 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't the IP address gets changed every now and then? Why would they need 18 months before erasing the last 4 bits?

I mean, I don't really care about personal privacy here. A certain IP address searched for these terms on this date... so what? Since when is searching illegal? They have no right to go on and find out who I really am unless they got a reason to suspect me of something. So, unless they get crazy, my privacy is respected...

But why can't they just obfuscate the data after say a year, or even 6 months? The vast majority of people will have a new IP address during this interval anyway, and the old IP address will be reallocated to somebody else. Statistical data based on this is meant to be flawed at some point.

RE: Why keep the data by IP address anyway?
By MobileZone on 6/14/2007 12:02:03 AM , Rating: 1
The problem (or solution) is not your IP address. They don't care about your IP address. They care A LOT about their cookie in your machine and about who you are, what you like, what you don't and etc.

Based on this precious information, they'll be able to make the largest and most accurate profile database of the universe and sell you things you don't even know you like so much.

By ThisSpaceForRent on 6/14/2007 8:14:34 AM , Rating: 2
Is that why gmail is always popping up with offers for tentacle pron?

I personally think that the EU's biggest concern about Google isn't the fact that they're doing it. Simply that the possibility of abuse exists.

I mean if I wanted to stalk someone these days I don't even need to leave the house. I can find out what their street address is with Google. Then I can watch their house with GoogleEarth. If I Googled enough I could probably find all their interests too.

By typo101 on 6/14/2007 7:14:40 PM , Rating: 2
I can watch their house with GoogleEarth

hah hah. *peers at screen really closely* "YES! I see some blue pixels! His car is definitely blue... or was... a couple months ago..."

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone
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