Feeds

Google backpedals on IP 'anonymization' claim

Less obscure obscurity

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Google has not only opened up on how often the world's governments request user data stored on its servers. It's come awfully close to acknowledging that it doesn't actually "anonymize" your IP address after 9 months.

As noticed by longtime Google critic Chris Soghoian - now a technical advisor for the US Federal Trade Commission's Division of Privacy and Identity Protection - Google has departed from the usual false claims of anonymization to say that after 9 months, it "obfuscates" your IP. At the very least, this new language isn't as misleading as the old.

An unnamed Googler recently gave an interview to Privacy International over the company's decision to release data on government requests for your private information, and the new language appeared when he or she was asked how long the company retains unique identifiers.

"Many of our services can be used without registering for the service (for example, Google search) and therefore we do not ask for any personally identifying information" the Googler said. "For those services, we may have unauthenticated logs data and our retention policy is to obfuscate the IP addresses after 9 months and delete the cookie after 18 months."

Google introduced its current data retention policy in the fall of 2008, and it was actually implemented sometime before the November of 2009. Google has always claimed that under the new policy, it "anonymizes" IPs - even though it doesn't. After 9 months, Google merely erases the last eights bits from IPs in server logs for search and other services that don't require sign-in. And as Soghoian has pointed out, if a cookie stays intact for 18 months, then restoring those missing eight bits is trivial. Though Google erases the bits on your nine-month-old search queries, they remain intact on your newer queries - and both sets of queries carry the same cookie info.

"Obfuscate" is an improvement - though it still doesn't tell the whole story. And "anonymize" is still the word of choice on Google's website. "We strike a reasonable balance between the competing pressures we face, such as the privacy of our users, the security of our systems and the need for innovation," reads the company's privacy FAQ. "We believe anonymizing IP addresses after 9 months and cookies in our search engine logs after 18 months strikes the right balance." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.