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Hoping to appease privacy advocates who've come down hard on its data retention policies, Google has made a practically meaningless change to its cookie policy.

The world's most popular search engine will soon issue browser cookies that automatically expire if you don't come back to the site for two years.

El Reg estimates that most people who don't return to Google after two years are either dead or confined to maximum security prison - most likely dead.

"After listening to feedback from our users and from privacy advocates, we've concluded that it would be a good thing for privacy to significantly shorten the lifetime of our cookies - as long as we could find a way to do so without artificially forcing users to re-enter their basic preferences at arbitrary points in time. And this is why we're announcing a new cookie policy," Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer writes on the company's official blog.

Sometime "in the coming months", according to Fleischer, Google will introduce cookies that "auto-expire" for users who don't return for two years and "auto-renew" for active users. The "auto-renew" bit means that anytime you visit the site, the two year clock starts all over again. Or as Fleischer puts it, "regular Google users will have their cookies auto-renew, so that their preferences are not lost".

Existing Google cookies were set expire sometime in 2038. "We were mindful of the fact that users can always go to their browsers to change their cookie management settings, e.g. to delete all cookies, delete specific cookies, or accept certain types of cookies (like first-party cookies) but reject others (like third-party cookies)," says Fleischer.

The way we see it, even after the policy change, the onus is still on users to manage their own cookies. Unless they kick the bucket. ®

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