Feeds

Data protection watchdogs' letter to Google goes public

Questions length of storage time before anonymisation

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A letter from an influential group of privacy experts in Europe saying that Google's new privacy policies appear to breach the requirements of the EU's data protection regime was published today.

Previously, Google operated a policy of retaining search queries and identifying information, such as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, for as long as it thought useful. In March, Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleischer, announced a new policy. He said that the company will keep its server log data but will make that data "much more anonymous, so that it can no longer be identified with individual users, after 18–24 months."

The letter of concern was sent to the search giant on 16 May by the Article 29 Working Party, an independent European advisory body on data protection and privacy. Google has responded with a statement that it wants to have a "constructive dialogue" with European authorities about its controversial policy.

The letter is addressed to Fleischer, based in Google's Paris office. It praises Google's willingness to engage with the data protection community and contrasts that with "some of the other leading players in the search engine community."

However, the letter continues:

Although Google's headquarters are based in the United States, Google is under legal obligation to comply with European laws, in particular privacy laws, as Google's services are provided to European citizens and it maintains data processing activities in Europe, especially the processing of personal data that takes place at its European centre.

As you are aware, server logs are information that can be linked to an identified or identifiable natural person and can, therefore, be considered personal data in the meaning of Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. For that reason their collection and storage must respect data protection rules.

The Article 29 Working Party considers a reduced storage period for server logs generated by the users of Google services as a valuable step to improve Google's privacy policies. However, it is of the opinion that the new storage period of 18 to 24 months on the basis indicated by Google thus far, does not seem to meet the requirements of the European legal data protection framework.

The Article 29 Working Party is concerned that Google has so far not sufficiently specified the purposes for which server logs need to be kept, as required by Article 6(1)(e) of Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. Taking account of Google's market position and ever-growing importance, the Article 29 Working Party would like further clarification as to why this long storage period was chosen. The Working Party would also be keen to hear Google's legal justification for the storage of server logs in general.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Next page: Related links

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.