September 09, 2008, 9:53 AM — Google will halve the length of time it holds data linking surfers' IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to their Web searches.
The move comes in response to regulators' concerns, especially in Europe and the U.S., the company said in a blog posting Tuesday
The search giant's new data retention policy is to render the IP addresses in its server logs anonymous after nine months, instead of waiting 18 months as it has until now. The company said the move is "another step to improve privacy for our users."
It also announced Tuesday that the search function called Google Suggest will be tweaked to make it more respectful of people's privacy.
The new data retention policy is to "anonymize" IP addresses on its server logs after nine months, instead of 18 months.
The move "is a significant improvement in privacy terms and it puts us ahead of the rest of the industry," said Google's global privacy counsel, Peter Fleicher. He added that Microsoft holds search data on MSN for 18 months, while Yahoo holds it for 13 months.
Meanwhile Google Suggest, a function that assists searches by prompting the searcher with possible destinations on the Web as he or she types the search word into the search box, will by the end of this month make all personal data used to refine searches anonymous after 24 hours.
"There is a privacy question regarding the logging of 2 percent of keystrokes typed into the omnibox on Chrome (the new browser launched by Google earlier this month)," Fleicher said.
Google said it's possible to provide the Google Suggest service while anonymizing data almost immediately. But in other cases -- such as its Web search -- storing data like IP addresses for a time is necessary to improve search quality.