Google in data protection problem

June 13th, 2007

In May, working group Article 29, made up from data protection commissioners from around the EU, wrote to Google expressing particular concern over the length of time personally identifiable data was being retained on the company’s servers.

It said the search engine’s policy did not appear “to meet the requirements of the European legal data protection framework”.

In a response to this, Google’s global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer responded: “We are committed to data protection principles that meet the expectations of our users in Europe and across the globe.” He said that Google believed their current policy complied with data protection law, but admitted a shorter period of data retention than existed at present was possible.
Mr Fleischer wrote: “After considering the working party’s concerns, we are announcing a new policy: to anonyms our search server logs after 18 months, rather than the previously-established period of 18 to 24 months.”

Article 29 has said it will “carefully study” Google’s letter, and will discuss it at its next session taking place on 20 and 21 June.

This is what happened:
The report by the veteran cyber rights group is the result of six months’ research which scrutinised 20 popular net firms to find out how they handle the personal information users gave up when they started using such services. None of the firms featured in the report got a “privacy friendly” rating.

Yahoo and AOL were said to have “substantial threats” to privacy as were Facebook and Hi5 for the allegedly poor way they dealt with user data. Microsoft, one place higher in the rankings than these four firms, was described as having “serious lapses” in its privacy policy.

Other net sites, such as, eBay and were described in the report as “generally privacy aware but in need of improvement”.

But Privacy International singled put Google at the bottom of its rankings for what the group called its “numerous deficiencies and hostilities” to privacy. “We are aware that the decision to place Google at the bottom of the ranking is likely to be controversial,” the group said in the report.

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