Thursday, March 15, 2007

Search Engine results

Google has decided to anonymise personal data that it receives from its search engine. Whilst the discussion of search results derived from search engines is not new, the privacy implications are important. The types of data that could be held about a user include information such as the search term itself, the IP address, and details of how a user makes searches, such as the browser used and previous queries to Google. Perhaps the question is whether any individuals has put in a request to Google about information held about them from the search engines?
Here is a short extract from the BBC website:
Privacy bodies have welcomed Google's decision to anonymise personal data it receives from users' web searches. The firm previously held information about searches for an indefinite period but will now anonymise it after 18 to 24 months. "This is an extremely positive development," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a US-based watchdog. "It's the type of thing we have been advocating for a number of years." However, governments could still force Google to hold onto data or hand it over to authorities. "By anonymising our server logs after 18 to 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," a statement from the search giant said. It's a step forward, but I would like to see them anonymising data in a much shorter period Richard Clayton, Cambridge University It added: "Unless we're legally required to retain log data for longer, we will anonymise our server logs after a limited period of time." Peter Fleischer, Google's privacy counsel for Europe, said the decision has been taken after consulting with privacy bodies in theUS and Europe. He said: "We believe that privacy is one of the cornerstones of trust. We will be retroactively going back into our log database and anonymising all the information there."

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