Google Inc. will start making its records about users' searches anonymous after 18 to 24 months under a policy announced Wednesday.
Until now, the dominant search company has indefinitely retained a log of every search, with identifiers that can associate it with a particular computer. The new policy, to be implemented within the next year, is intended to better protect users' privacy, two executives wrote in a Google Blog entry posted Wednesday.
Under the new policy, unless Google is legally required to retain them longer, server logs will still be retained but will be "anonymized" after 18 to 24 months so that they can't be identified with individual users, according to the blog entry. It was written by Peter Fleischer, Google's privacy counsel for Europe, and Nicole Wong, the company's deputy general counsel. Engineers are working out the technical details now, they wrote.
Google keeps the server logs so it can improve services and protect them from abuse and security threats, the company said. Each search record includes the query, IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and cookie details.
The Mountain View, California, company instigated the move on its own after talking to "leading privacy stakeholders" in Europe and the U.S., the blog entry said. Data retention laws may force the company to retain logs for a longer time, it said.