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Business

Data retention issue goes beyond Google

Google is taking heat again for a decision to store a customer's results for 18 months, but some perspective is missing. Data retention goes way beyond Google.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google is taking heat again for a decision to store a customer's results for 18 months, but some perspective is missing. Data retention goes way beyond Google. It's an enterprise epidemic.

Before all the critics spout off (see Techmeme) about Google's evil intentions let's note what the search giant really has on you--some search results and a few cookies. Yawn. Google's data is nothing compared to that credit card number residing at your favorite retailer point of sale system (even though it's supposed to be purged). Where was TJX's purge policy? And Google's data is peanuts compared to your Social Security number on that laptop Joe FederalWorker just left at a diner.

Let's give Google some props just for having a policy. Many enterprises don't. In fact, corporate America has a major pack rat problem and it goes well beyond the Web. And why not? Storage is cheap and if companies keep customer data around long enough maybe they'll even figure out something to do with it.

In the meantime, the data just sits there, begging to be lost, hacked or worse. Companies should be purging customer data on a regular basis just for security purposes. But most of them don't--unless they have been hacked or embarrassed in public.

That big picture, however, gets lost amid all of this Google banter. We're way too worried about Google knowing how often we've searched on Paris Hilton at work. I'd rather fret about the stuff that'll cost me my identity and credit rating thank you.

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