Google to make search data anonymous
After 18 to 24 months, it's not about you anymore
Computerworld - In a bid to protect the privacy of its users, Google Inc. yesterday said it is taking steps to makes searches by its users anonymous after 18 to 24 months.
"When you search on Google, we collect information about your search, such as the query itself, IP addresses and cookie details," according to a blog post from Peter Fleischer, privacy counsel-Europe, and Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel. "Previously, we kept this data for as long as it was useful. Unless we're legally required to retain log data for longer, we will anonymize our server logs after a limited period of time."
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said that when it implements the policy change within the next year, it will continue to keep server log data to improve Google's services and prevent security threats and other abuses.
Google said it would also build privacy protections into its products, including Google Talk's "off the record" feature, as well as Google Desktop's "pause" and "lock search" controls.
The company said it will also provide easy-to-understand privacy policies on its Web site for its users.
By making the decision to bolster its privacy policies, Google is responding to the concerns of privacy advocates and some government regulators in the U.S. and Europe that releasing the data could pose privacy risks for users.
"After talking with leading privacy stakeholders in Europe and the U.S., we're pleased to be taking this important step toward protecting your privacy," according to the statement. "By anonymizing our server logs after 18-24 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."
Two high-tech civil rights groups called the move a good first step but said more work needs to be done.
"This is a big step in the right direction," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, in a statement.
"Keeping the data around forever significantly compromises [Google's] users' privacy," said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. The U.S. government probably has subpoenaed search log data on individuals in criminal investigations, a move it wouldn't necessarily have to reveal, he said. Another danger is that an angry spouse or business partner could obtain the information in the course of a lawsuit, Bankston said.
"We'd love to see a shorter retention period and more complete anonymization," Bankston said. Google should also extend the policy to its other products, which include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps and other Web-based tools.
Other major search providers, such as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.'s MSN, haven't revealed as much as Google has about what they do with server logs, Bankston said.
Stephen Lawson of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.
Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.
- Best iPhone, iPad Business Apps for 2014
- 14 Tech Conventions You Should Attend in 2014
- 10 Desktop Apps to Power Your Windows PC
- How to Add New Job Skills Without Going Back to School
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- The 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements addressed by Peer 1 Hosting This handy quick reference outlines the 12 PCI DSS 3.0 requirements, who needs to be compliant and how Alert Logic solutions address the...
- Defense Throughout the Vulnerability Life Cycle This whitepaper provides insight into how to leverage threat and log management technologies to protect your IT assets throughout their vulnerability life cycle.
- Alert Logic for PCI DSS Compliance To achieve PCI DSS compliance, you must identify and remediate all critical vulnerabilities detected during PCI scans. Threat Manager streamlines this process by...
- Cybersecurity Imperatives Reinvent Your Network Security With Palo Alto Networks The Rise of CyberSecurity
- Live Webcast On-demand webinar: "Mobility Mayhem: Balancing BYOD with Enterprise Security" Check out this on-demand webinar to hear Sophos senior security expert John Shier deep dive into how BYOD impacts your enterprise security strategy...
- Live Webcast Endpoint Backup & Restore: Protect Everyone, Everywhere Arek Sokol from the bleeding-edge IT team at Genentech/Roche explains how he leverages cross-platform enterprise endpoint backup in the public cloud as part...
- Streamline Software Asset Management, Compose a software Management Symphony Keeping track of your organization's software is easy with effective software management solutions from CDW. View the videos in our software solutions channel
- Druva inSync: Endpoint Data Protection & Governance CLICK HERE to watch this video about protecting corporate data on laptops and mobile devices, sponsored by Druva. All Security White Papers | Webcasts