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Google shortens time it keeps consumer data

September 8, 2008 |  9:58 pm

Bowing to pressure from privacy watchdogs and regulators, Google said late tonight that it would shorten how long it retains consumer data, making those records anonymous after nine months rather than 18.

Google used to keep logs of all search queries connected to individual IP (Internet protocol) addresses indefinitely. In March 2007, the company began making those queries anonymous after 18 months. But the move wasn't aggressive enough to appease privacy groups or European regulators increasingly nervous about Google's growing dominance on the Internet.

In a post on its official blog, Google said it has tried to strike the right balance between improving its search engine and shielding consumers' privacy. Collecting that information helps Google fight fraud and reduce spam, the company said. Most important, "the routine server log data we collect has always been a critical ingredient of innovation," Google said. Restricting how long it keeps consumer data "meant sacrifices in future innovations in all of those areas."

Google says it has had "literally hundreds of discussions with data protection officials, government leaders and privacy advocates around the world" to explain Google's privacy practices and to improve privacy. Its engineers also spent months developing methods to find ways to make consumer information anonymous faster, the company said.

-- Jessica Guynn

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