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Google Gives an Inch in EU Privacy Tiff

A European privacy group has convinced Google to clear its user data of information that could be used to identify the user once the data has existed for 18 months. Google noted, however, that governments and businesses are obliged to retain information, and it's difficult to operate a global Internet service according to different privacy standards in different countries.

A European privacy group has convinced Google to clear its user data of information that could be used to identify the user once the data has existed for 18 months. Google noted, however, that governments and businesses are obliged to retain information, and it's difficult to operate a global Internet service according to different privacy standards in different countries.

A Big Know-It-All
Earlier this week, Privacy International, a London-based privacy advocacy group, ranked Google as the worst in protecting customer privacy out of a field of nearly two dozen major Internet-based companies. Google acknowledges sharing general user statistics but insists it never provides outsiders with personally-identifiable data.
Search logs aren't the only data being questioned by the EU. In May, the Working Party expressed concern for Google's use of "cookies" to track customers' search habits and other propensities. The EU was particularly concerned about the length of time Google retained cookie data.
"We are considering the Working Party's concerns regarding cookie expiration periods, and we are exploring ways to redesign cookies and to reduce their expiration without artificially forcing users to re-enter basic preferences such as language preference," wrote Fleischer in his response. "We plan to make an announcement about privacy improvements for our cookies in the coming months."
In March, Google explained that anonymizing the logs entails changing some of the bits in the IP (Internet protocol) address in the logs as well as the cookie information. "We're still developing the precise technical methods and approach to this, but we believe these changes will be a significant addition to protecting user privacy," said the company.
It explained that changing the bits of an IP addresses and cookies makes it "less likely" that IP addresses can be associated with specific computers or users.

By Fred J. Aun
TechNewsWorld
06/12/07 11:06 AM PT

 


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