Arguing forcefully that it’s necessary to protect privacy, the “Article 29 Working Party” of the European Parliament has been trying to get search engines to cut their search data retention to six months. But in a crazy turn of events, a proposal that would directly contradict those efforts and require retention for up to 2 years has been submitted for potential adoption by the European Parliament.
The “European Data Retention Directive,” being pushed by some members of Parliament, would be extended to search engines and ask them to hold on to search data for six months to 2 years. According to the EFF, it would require Google et al to “store all communications traffic data . . . for possible use by law enforcement” to help identify and prosecute child pornographers and sex offenders.
It’s far from certain that this newer “Data Retention Directive” will become law; it’s reportedly unpopular with many EU Parliamentarians. However, for the time being at least, it would seem to paralyze the EU’s ability to make data retention demands on search engines of any sort.
As for the earlier demand by the EU parliament’s privacy working party, Microsoft some time ago said it would comply to anonymize IP and cookie data; Google however said it would not and that it needs to store data longer to improve its services and “fight the bad guys.”
Currently Google “anonymizes” IP addresses on its server logs after nine months. Microsoft will completely delete them after six months in compliance with the EU request (see Anonymizing Google’s Server Log Data — How’s It Going?).
These competing and contradictory privacy and data retention initiatives remind me of the climactic scene from the 1974 John Houston film Chinatown:
Here are some previous posts on data retention and privacy:
- Google: “With Buzz We Failed To Appreciate That Users Have Differing Privacy Expectations”
- Google Halves Data Retention Time Against Backdrop Of EU Pressure, US Regulatory Scrutiny
- European Groups Says Search Engines Must Delete Search Data Within Six Months
- Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, & Other Search Engines Must Comply With EU Privacy Rules
- Microsoft To Anonymize Log Data; Calls For Industry Standards Along With Ask.com
- EU Group May Serve Google With Letter Over Data Retention Policies
- European Union Questions Google’s Data Retention Policy
- Google Anonymizing Search Records To Protect Privacy