Google Reacts to EU Scrutiny, Cuts Data Retention Period

clickz_ukandeu.gifGoogle announced today it will cut the amount of time it stores users’ IP addresses from 18 months to nine, in response to scrutiny from European regulatory bodies.

A statement posted on the company blog today reads, “We’re significantly shortening our previous 18-month retention policy to address regulatory concerns and to take another step to improve privacy for our users.”

The move could also serve to placate privacy advocates concerned with Google’s increasing dominance of the advertising market, and in particular its proposed tie-up with Yahoo.

The Article 29 Working Party, an EU regulatory body, has repeatedly expressed concerns about the use of data collected by search engines, and the potential for such data to be used illegally.

In response, Google agreed to limit the amount of time it kept users’ search data to 18 months in June 2007.

Speaking with ClickZ news in February, Google’s Policy Communications Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Jon Steinback, said that 18 months represented “the right balance between user privacy, and maintaining the security and innovation of [Google’s] underlying systems.”

Today’s blog post says much the same, and argues that a further reduction in the retention period will limit Google’s ability to use the data for future innovation. It adds, however, that Google engineers have developed methods for “preserving more of the data’s utility” while also anonymizing IP addresses sooner. “[Google is] glad that this will bring some additional improvement in privacy,” the blog post adds.

Under its new policy, the search giant will also make adjustments to its Google Suggest system, which recommends search terms based on what users have already typed into the search engine. Any data collected from these searches will now be erased after 24 hours.

The new data retention policies should be in place by the end of the month.

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