Google this week said it would anonymise user data received through search
requests entered in its search engine and Chrome
In response to concerns over privacy, the company announced on
Monday in the UK that it would anonymise the data within 24 hours of it being
gathered. Writing on the official Google blog, senior vice
president of operations Urs Holzle also noted that the data was, in
any case, of "limited potential use" to Google.
The data in question is that gathered through use of Google
Suggest, the service that provides a dropdown menu of suggested
queries as a user types a query into Google's search engine, or
into Chrome's 'Omnibox'. Suggest does this by logging keystrokes
as they are made, then offering a list of possible auto-completions
of what has been typed.
In 98 percent of search requests made using Suggest, no data is
stored at all. According to Holzle, in the remaining two percent of
cases, selected randomly by Google, data such as IP addresses,
was stored so that the company can "monitor and improve the
"Given the concerns that have been raised about Google storing
this information, and its limited potential use, we [have]
decided that we will anonymise it within about 24 hours (basically,
as soon as we practically can) in the two percent of Google Suggest
requests we use," wrote Holzle. "This will take a little time to
implement, but we expect it to be in place before the end of the
Google Suggest has been around since 2004, but interest in its
privacy implications was revived last week when the company
launched Chrome, its open source browser.
Chrome's URL box is called the Omnibox because it also doubles
as a search bar. In default settings, that search functionality is
set to use Google Suggest.
Some, such as Germany's Federal Bureau for Information
Technology Security, have voiced discomfort at the amount of user
information Google is now able to gather since Chrome's launch,
given that the company also has significant market share in the
email and search markets.