Google Toughens Stance With EU Article 29 Working party!

Jun 12, 2007 | 1,657 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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After Google was slapped with a Subpoena from the US Department of Justice Peter Fleischer from Google's Global Privacy Counsel asks, "How long should Google remember searches?".

In response to EU Article 29 Working Party's letter, Google writes that “Retention of logs data is critical to our ability to operate and improve our services, and to provide adequate security for our users, as follows:

  • Analyzing log data is an important tool to help our engineers refine search quality and build helpful new services. Take the example of Google Spell Checker. Our spell-checking software automatically looks at your query and checks to see if you are using the most common version of a word’s spelling. If it calculates that you’re likely to generate more relevant search results with an alternative spelling, it will ask “Did you mean: (more common spelling)?” We can offer this service by looking at spelling corrections that people do or do not click on. Similarly, with logs, we can improve our search results: if we know that people are clicking on the #1 result we’re doing something right, and if they’re hitting next page or reformulating their query, we’re doing something wrong. The ability of a search company to continue to improve its services is essential, and represents a normal and expected use of such data.
  • Log data is also crucial in helping prevent fraud and abuse. It is standard among Internet companies to retain server logs with IP addresses as one of an array of tools to protect the system from security attacks. For example, our computers can analyze logging patterns in order to identify, investigate and defend against malicious access and exploitation attempts. A failure to retain log data for a sufficient period would make our systems more vulnerable to security attacks, putting the personal data of our users at greater risk. Historical logs information
    can also be a useful tool to help us detect and prevent phishing, scripting attacks, and spam, including query click spam and ads click spam. Moreover, log data helps us protect our systems from web and index spam, which in turn supports healthy traffic flow to many web sites on the Internet.”
  • to improve our search algorithms for the benefit of users
  • to defend our systems from malicious access and exploitation attempts
  • to maintain the integrity of our systems by fighting click fraud and web spam
  • to protect our users from threats like spam and phishing
  • to respond to valid legal orders from law enforcement as they investigate and prosecute serious crimes like child exploitation; and
  • to comply with data retention legal obligations.

However, Google has decided to make a change, "to anonymize our search server logs after 18 months, rather than the previously-established period of 18 to 24 months. We also firmly reject any suggestions that we could meet our legitimate interests in security, innovation and anti-fraud efforts with any retention period shorter than 18 months. We are considering the Working Party's concerns regarding cookie expiration periods, and we are exploring ways to redesign cookies and to reduce their expiration without artificially forcing users to re-enter basic preferences such as language preference. We plan to make an announcement about privacy improvements for our cookies in the coming months."

In case of more updates and changes in terms to privacy laws, keep watching this space. However, not everything is out for display. Google follows strict rules and regulations which applies to all of the products, services and websites offered by Google Inc. or its subsidiaries or affiliated companies (collectively, Google's "services").

“Google is, of course, concerned about the availability of materials harmful to minors on the Internet, but that shared concern does not render the Government's request acceptable or relevant. In truth, the data demanded tells the Government absolutely nothing about either filters or the effectiveness of laws. Nor will the data tell the Government whether a given search would return any particular URL. Nor will the URL returned, by its name alone, tell the Government whether that URL was a site that contained material harmful to minors.”

Google adheres to the US safe harbor privacy principles and is registered with the U.S. Department of Commerce's safe harbor program.

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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail Google Toughens Stance With EU Article 29 Working party!
4.thumbnail Google Toughens Stance With EU Article 29 Working party!