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Google to improve privacy on Web searches

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SF Chronicle
Tuesday, Sept 9, 2008

Google’s deputy general counsel, Nicole Wong, said Monday that Google will halve the time it stores logs of users’ Web searches.

Google now keeps logs for 18 months but plans to cut that time to nine months, said Wong, who spoke at a meeting of the Churchill Club in Mountain View along with several other privacy experts.

Web searchers leave records of their computers’ Internet Protocol addresses as they surf the Web. These are numerical addresses assigned by their Internet Service Providers that could be combined with other data kept by the ISPs and used to identify them.

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Google retains these search logs partly to improve its own products.
For example, Wong said, Google can automatically correct search requests as users type them because its researchers have studied patterns of search requests in Google’s logs. But, she said, “We still think we can do a pretty good job at nine months.”

Wong declined to answer questions about the change and referred to Google’s blog post, which said Google is still working out how to anonymize the Internet Protocol addresses and is “concerned about the potential loss of security, quality, and innovation that may result from having less data.”

Google was under pressure from the European Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology, an advocacy group, according to Jim Dempsey, the center’s vice president for public policy. He called the change “an important development and a step in the right direction.”

This article was posted: Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 1:11 pm

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