Feeds

Google backpedals on IP 'anonymization' claim

Less obscure obscurity

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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." ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.