Google's search privacy protections strike good balance

Summary:Google is adding search privacy protections and will remove your cookies and IP address after 18 to 24 months. My first reaction: It doesn't go far enough and Google shouldn't be spying on me at all.

Google is adding search privacy protections and will remove your cookies and IP address after 18 to 24 months.

My first reaction: It doesn't go far enough and Google shouldn't be spying on me at all.

My second reaction about 10 minutes later: It's a good compromise.

Judging from Techmeme discussion on Google's move my two reactions are well represented. Why did I change my take in a few minutes? I'm a capitalist pig at heart and realize Google has to make money (yes even more of it) and advance its products and that means some privacy tradeoffs from users. Cookies are important when it comes to tailoring your user experience--and potentially delivering a nice ad to you.

In other words, I buy this line from the Official Google blog:

"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."

Now folks can bicker about Google's motives or why the company is holding your information 18 to 24 months. In the end, the only thing that really matters is Google's privacy policy is transparent. As a consumer you can decide whether it's bunk or not and act accordingly.

My hunch is other Web companies will follow Google's lead with other policies. After all, every time you visit a site you leave a clickprint. And after about three visits according to academic types the site has you identified.

That fact may scare privacy worrywarts, but retaining your information is good for business. Bottom line: Google has found a suitable balance between your privacy and its business goals. Retaining information for 18 to 24 months may not be perfect but it beats indefinitely.

Topics: Google

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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