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Watching Google As Google Watches
By virtue of being the world’s most popular search engine, Google has captured massive amounts of data about searches and the searchers. By virtue of their technological expertise, Google has the ability to transform that data into quite a bit of useful information. In some regards, Google may be one of the world’s leading intelligence organizations.

Google recently announced that they will ‘anonymize’ the data they collect “by stripping addresses from the records after 18 to 24 months.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the data retention period is enough “to keep law enforcement officials happy and satisfy its quality control needs.” As a senior Google legal official explains, “We think this change will strike the right balance.”

An official with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights watchdog, said that Google could do more and that “It would be nice to see the window narrowed to a shorter time frame. The shorter the better.” However, an official with the Center for Democracy and Technology described Google’s statement as “an extremely positive development. It's the type of thing we have been advocating for a number of years.”

Its not surprising to see privacy rights watchdogs having legitimate disagreements on the complex issue, particularly since Google is balancing business needs, respect for its customers’ privacy and the ability to assist law enforcement investigations. Ultimately, each computer user has to take responsibility for securing their own online privacy by exercising considerable prudence in disclosing personal data and, if appropriate, making use of some of the many available electronic privacy tools.

See L.A. Times story

See Electronic Frontier Foundation website

See Center for Democracy and Technology website

See EPIC Online Guide to Practical Privacy Tools

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