Google to make search logs anonymous

Google has announced that it will start making its records about users' searches anonymous after 18 to 24 months under a new policy. The Mountain View, California-based company instigated the move on its own after talking to "leading privacy stakeholders" in Europe and the U.S. Until now, the search giant has indefinitely retained a log of every search with identifiers that can associate it with a particular computer. The new policy, to be implemented within the next year, is intended to better protect users' privacy.

Under the new policy, unless Google is legally required to retain them longer (under data retention laws), server logs will still be retained but will be "anonymized" after 18 to 24 months so that they can't be identified with individual users, according to a blog entry written by Peter Fleischer, Google's privacy counsel for Europe, and Nicole Wong, the company's deputy general counsel. Engineers are working out the technical details now. Google keeps the server logs so it can improve services and protect them from abuse and security threats, the company said. Each search record includes the query, IP addresses, and cookie details.

News source: InfoWorld

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14 Comments

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tony-inpo said,
Isn't this going to make it harder to trap peadofiles etc?

I'm sure the information would be used to track them down?

Then the ones trying to catch must work faster than 18-24 months. Google anonyzmizes it after 24 motnhs, but if for instance interpol gets the information from google after 23 months, they still have it on their pc's after two months, however it has been anonymized on google logfiles.

So I can't really see a problem, they need to work faster.

My question is, if Google is so concerned about privacy, why are they waiting 18-24 months to anonmymize the data?

Search logs can never be made anonymous. There are hints right in the query like addresses, phone numbers, names plus information the toolbar captures for delibrate searches and automatic redirects.
As long a the queries are stored it can be used to identify the person performing the searches.

How would you identify the person?
If it has been made a search on Britney Spears, you would know the search term, but you can't really be sure if Britney Spears have made a search for herself.

If you search for a specific person, phone number, adress, how can they know WHO made the search?
Was it the guy himself, was it his friends, family, someone from his work, someone he met at some random place?

What do you mean with toolbar captures?