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Amid regulatory worries, Google halves time it keeps your data

Google is halving the time it keeps your IP addresses on its servers.Billed as "another step to protect user privacy" the move is really to keep regulators at bay.
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Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Google is halving the time it keeps your IP addresses on its servers.

Billed as "another step to protect user privacy" the move is really to keep regulators at bay. Google used to keep your IP addresses on its servers for 18 months, a time that was defended as being necessary for more useful ad targeting.

Google explains (Techmeme):

Over the last two years, policymakers and regulators -- especially in Europe and the U.S. -- have continued to ask us (and others in the industry) to explain and justify this shortened logs retention policy. We responded by open letter to explain how we were trying to strike the right balance between sometimes conflicting factors like privacy, security, and innovation. Some in the community of EU data protection regulators continued to be skeptical of the legitimacy of logs retention and demanded detailed justifications for this retention. Many of these privacy leaders also highlighted the risks of litigants using court-ordered discovery to gain access to logs, as in the recent Viacom suit.

In other words, the EU is being a pain in Google's backside and the U.S. may follow. In a letter addressing EU concerns, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said:

Finding the right balance between data retention and privacy is a tough issue for policymakers, Google and our industry. There is great utility in data, but we also believe that limiting the amount and types of data we keep can improve privacy while continuing to provide a strong user experience. Anonymizing the data earlier will have costs, particularly in terms of future search quality improvements. But our engineers are working hard to minimize those losses.

For now Google's balance point is at 9 months, but the search giant said that's a stretch because "we haven't sorted out all of the implementation details."

Somehow I doubt it will matter and the EU will push back. The ball is back in the regulators' court.

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