Google Search Becomes More Anonymous

Glenn Chapman

GOOGLE will begin routinely purging its data banks of information that identifies search engine users in order to better shield their anonymity, the company said overnight.

Google will delete information from "cookies," bits of software put on computers to track website visits, as well as erase portions of the IP addresses that identify which computer a person is using to get online.

The past practice of the internet search giant was to keep all logged web searching details indefinitely.

"We're pleased to report a change in our privacy policy," Google lawyers Peter Fleischer and Nicole Wong said in a posting on the company's website.

"Unless we're legally required to retain log data for longer, we will anonymise our server logs after a limited period of time."

Data kept by Google regarding searches by users will be made "much more anonymous" 18 to 24 months after it is collected, according to the lawyers.

"After talking with leading privacy stakeholders in Europe and the United States, we're pleased to be taking this important step toward protecting your privacy," Mr Fleischer and Ms Wong said.

"Our engineers are already busy working out the technical details."

Google hoped to implement the new privacy policy within a year.

"I think it is an important step in the right direction," said Internet rights attorney Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

"I hope it inspires a competition with other search engines to see which can provide the best privacy protection."

Google's announcement was a break from the common pattern of Internet search engines cloaking details about what how much they track user activity and what they do with the information.

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