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Google To Anonymize User Search Data

By Patrick | March 21, 2007

This news is so awesome. Google announced in their blog on March 14th, 2007, that they would begin anonymizing user search data after 18-24 months. Upon further reading of their Privacy Policies and Log Retention FAQ, it appears this new policy won’t actually go into effect until sometime near the end of 2007. However, it’s a step in the right direction.

Some of you may be looking at me and saying to yourself “Google keeps my search data?” Yeah they do. They track the search query, the IP address requesting the information (that’s your IP address), and other details from the cookie they put on your computer. This isn’t an underhanded deceitful source of trickery on Google’s part, it’s been widely known for years that Google keeps this data. The good news is that now it will be anonymized after 18-24 months by changing a few bits in the IP address so that the query can no longer be matched back to the requester.

While I would really like it if they just wouldn’t keep the data at all, Google states they need this data to continue gathering statistics and other business related data for its revenue generation. Google has stated they are seeking the proper balance between privacy and business necessity. So we’ll see; like I said earlier, it’s a step.

For you criminals out there, let it be known that law enforcement can still request that log data be held for a certain IP address or addresses, so technically, if you are being watched or monitored, then your IP address and the search terms associated, may be retained indefinitely.

If anyone is interested in truly private Google searching, and by that I mean no cookies, no IP addresses and no audit trail, just head on over to Scroogle. This is a “scraper” that proxies your search requests and returns just the results, no ads and in complete anonymity.

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Topics: Corporate, Surveillance | 144 Comments »

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