Why does Google retain data? Nonexistent laws tell it to.

Google wants to know what you search for, and plenty of people have wondered why. According to the company's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer, log data is used to improve core Google search services, including Google's spell checking software and search results. That's nice, but can't the same be done just as well with anonymous data? If the search giant could avoid privacy leaks such as AOL had, why wouldn't it? Fleischer notes the company also uses the information to deal with fraud and abuse. "Immediate deletion of IP addresses from our logs would make our systems more vulnerable to security attacks, putting the personal data of our users at greater risk. Historical logs information can also be a useful tool to help us detect and prevent phishing, scripting attacks, and spam, including query click spam and ads click spam."

Fleischer also claims that retaining personal data for two years is necessary because of European and US data protection laws, even though those laws do not yet exist. The EU's Data Retention Directive was passed in late 2005 but has yet to be implemented by the various member states (which have until 2009). The law requires each country in the EU to adopt a retention requirement of between six and 24 months but even though the laws are not yet in effect and won't apply retroactively, Google still believes it is necessary to retain data now for the longest possible period the law provides for. In the US, Fleischer suggests that Google's behavior is proper because the government has simply "called for 24-month data retention laws."

News source: Ars Technica

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5 Comments

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How else would Google make money? They provide their services for users so that they can collect usage trends that aid in ad placement. Google could (or probably does) sell this information.

Consider the following scenario: You, as a business move, were considering moving your chicken wing restaurant to foo town in foo state. You commission Google to do some research into their "logs" into how often chicken wing restaurants were searched for from users in that area. Google gives you the statistics and based on that you decide that maybe your restaurant doesn't have as much potential in foo town as you thought it did and decide to open up somewhere else.

I don't see any problem with this, given that the user information is not in the statistics.

Shadrack said,
How else would Google make money? They provide their services for users so that they can collect usage trends that aid in ad placement.

I betcha the highest logged word in the google search engine is "PORN" :P I would only imagine how useful this could be for google's advertising department.

The research and statistical power that google could take advantage of is amazing. It would be interesting to compare trends to times of the year, current events and more - not just use the data for more profit.

Why? Because they can!

And they use that to determine trends and patterns, which means potentially more targetted ads, which means more revenue, which means more profit. They all do it. Don't trust any of them with any important personal data, but for casual searches, it's no big deal to me.

A little imagination on:

Already stoped to thinbk how future governants can be affected by that?
"oh, Mr. Somebody wants to be president? He doesnt like google or something related to it? Let me look at my google database about ewverything he has been doing on internet on the last decade"