Feeds

Google: Our data retention is not data protection watchdogs' business

It ain't your field

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The retention of search engine query data is a security matter and not one for Europe's data protection officials, according to Google's global privacy chief.

Peter Fleischer said that its retention of user search data was "just not their field".

Speaking to weekly technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio, Fleischer said it is interesting to hear the views of the committee of Europe's privacy watchdogs the Article 29 Working Party, but that the matter is not up to them.

"Remember the Data Retention Directive comes out of the security side of government, not the data protection side," said Fleischer. "So it's interesting to me to hear what an official from the data protection world thinks about data retention, but it's like asking somebody who works for the railroad what they think of airline regulation. It's just not their field."

Google has been embroiled in controversy over the fact that it stores records of what users have searched for along with internet protocol addresses that could be used to identify the searcher.

It said earlier this year it would anonymise those records after between 18 months and two years. The Working Party objected and asked it to keep records along with potentially identifying information for a far shorter time. Google reduced that time to 18 months.

Google said it had to keep the records because the Data Retention Directive demanded it, but as OUT-LAW.COM recently revealed, the Article 29 Working Party said the Directive does not apply.

"The Data Retention Directive applies only to providers of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communication networks and not to search engine systems," Philippos Mitletton, who works for the European Commission's Data Protection Unit, which itself is represented on the Article 29 Working Party, told OUT-LAW.COM. "Accordingly, Google is not subject to this Directive as far as it concerns the search engine part of its applications and has no obligations thereof," he said.

Fleischer said he believed the security part of European government was the relevant department, but even the office of the Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security said that the Directive does not apply to search logs.

"The Data Retention Directive only covers providers of public electronic communications services or networks and it does not therefore cover providers of information society services. Search engines are providers of information society services rather than public electronic communication services/networks and are therefore outside the scope of the Directive," a spokeswoman for the Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security told OUT-LAW.

"Moreover search queries are content, and not traffic or location data, and the Data Retention Directive does not cover content. The Commission has no plans to make search engines retain search queries," she said.

The directive may even be irrelevant, though, since Fleischer said his company would pursue its own policy irrespective of what EU law demanded on retention. "I would point out that even if the Data Retention Directive were repealed tomorrow, our decision on the factors that went into the right period to retain server logs, the decision to keep them for 18 months and then to anonymise them, it would be the same decision even if data retention were repealed tomorrow," he said.

See: OUT-LAW Radio

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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?
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Mitigating web security risk with SSL certificates
Web-based systems are essential tools for running business processes and delivering services to customers.