EU To Search Engines: Get Rid Of Your Data, No Keep It

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:

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Here are some previous posts on data retention and privacy:

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Outside US | Legal: Privacy | Microsoft: Outside US | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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