RealTime IT News

Google Behind The Curtain

Now you can search, comfortable in the knowledge that you are doing so anonymously. Google will no longer indefinitely maintain a database of user queries, IP addresses and cookie details.

Google has changed its privacy policy so that unless it's legally required to keep the data longer, it will anonymize its server logs after a limited period of time, according to a post on the company's official blog.

Google said it will still keep server log data for security purposes, but will scrub it of all identifying information within 18 to 24 months. The company said changes to its privacy policy are the result of discussions with privacy stakeholders in Europe and the United States.

In 2006, Google made a stand for privacy against the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ), which sought an index of millions of URLs and a week's worth of search data from the search engine.

The DoJ said it would use the information to measure the effectiveness of filtering software in screening material that is harmful to minors. While America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft complied with the DoJ request, Google challenged the government's request in court.

In a March 2005 ruling, the U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., said Google would have to turn over the log of 50,000 URLs to the DoJ, but not any of the data on 5,000 search queries the DoJ requested.

Though Google did not comply with the DoJ, it did comply with 20th Century Fox, responding to a subpoena issued by the U.S. District Court in Northern California. The company disclosed to Fox the identities of two individuals who illegally uploaded entire episodes of "24" prior to its broadcast and DVD release to Google's YouTube.