Google (GOOG) announced a big change in policy on its blog last night, designed to cool off privacy advocates and EU regulators. The company will start to “anonymize” user data after 9 months, down from its current policy of 18 months.
Until last year, Google was hanging on to its data logs indefinitely, but in March 2007 began anonymizing the data after 18 months — which stripped away all personally-identifiable information that connected searches with specific computers and IP addresses.
Google made clear it’s doing this grudgingly: “While we’re glad that this will bring some additional improvement in privacy, we’re also concerned about the potential loss of security, quality, and innovation that may result from having less data,” the company said.
But Google also said the shorter time frame would protect users against the risk that litigants such as Viacom (VIA) — which gained access to YouTube’s user logs — could sue to gain access to Google’s stored search data.
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