Google will anonymize search server logs, they say

Google BlogOn the Google Blog, Peter Fleischer and Nicole Wong announced that within a year, Google will anonymize the server logs containing your search queries. So far, the query itself, IP addresses and cookie details were saved.

When you search on Google, we collect information about your search, such as the query itself, IP addresses and cookie details. Previously, we kept this data for as long as it was useful. Today we’re pleased to report a change in our privacy policy: Unless we’re legally required to retain log data for longer, we will anonymize our server logs after a limited period of time. When we implement this policy change in the coming months, we will continue to keep server log data (so that we can improve Google’s services and protect them from security and other abuses)—but will make this data much more anonymous, so that it can no longer be identified with individual users, after 18-24 months. (…) 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. 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. In the future, it’s possible that data retention laws will obligate us to retain logs for longer periods. Of course, you can always choose to have us retain this data for more personalized services like Search History. But that’s up to you.

With the new policy in place, it won’t be possible to identify individual users’ searches – after 18-24 months. But hey! That’s like… years! Oh wait, it really is.

Deleting a detailed log file after two years won’t exactly put Google on the forefront of the privacy elite. Bit it does win them brownie points for good will. It’s good to see that some folks in there are taking measures to provide fight for at least some basic privacy protection, even if it’s just in the long term. (By that point in time, Google has sucked all the value the data has for them anyway, but at least the log files won’t trickle through the web for years to come.)

(Also, I was pretty surprised to read there about Google Talk’s off-the-record feature.) Link (via

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