June 13, 2007

EU welcomes Google offer on privacy

Internet search leader Google Inc. had offered to cut the time it retains data on user searches from the current 24 months to 18 months amid growing concerns it could be violating EU privacy rules.The EU justice and home affairs commissioner welcomed a letter sent by Google officials to an independent EU data protection panel earlier this week in which the company said it would raise its data privacy standards for all users.Google said the company "is committed to raising the bar on our own privacy practices for the benefit of Google users."Google relies on its cookies and user logs to compile information of the search terms entered into specific Web browsers as well as other potentially sensitive online information. The company says the data help its search engine better understand its users so it can deliver more relevant results and advertisements.The 28-member data protection panel, which advises the European Commission and EU governments on data protection issues, had demanded Google answer concerns about the company's practice of storing and retaining user information for up to two years.
London-based Privacy International last week rated Google the worst among the Internet's top destinations on privacy.The watchdog said it was particularly troubled by Google's ability to match data gathered by its search engine with information collected from other services such as e-mail, instant messaging and maps.