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Google assures better privacy

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published March 15, 2007


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SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc. is adopting privacy measures to make it more difficult to connect online search requests with the people making them - a thorny issue that provoked a showdown with the U.S. government last year.

Under revisions announced late Wednesday, Google promised to wrap a cloak of anonymity around the vast amounts of information that the company, based in Mountain View, Calif., regularly collects about its millions of users around the world.

Google believes it can provide more assurances of privacy by removing key pieces of identifying information from its system every 18 to 24 months. The timetable is designed to comply with a hodgepodge of laws around the world that dictate how long search engines are supposed to retain user information.

Authorities still could demand to review personal information before Google purges it or take legal action seeking to force it to keep the data beyond the new limits.

Nevertheless, Google's additional safeguards mark the first time it has spelled out precisely how long it will hold onto data that can reveal intimate details about a person's Web surfing habits.

While Google will still retain reams of information about its users, the changes are supposed to lessen the chances that the company, a government agency or another party will be able to identify the people behind specific search requests.

Privacy experts applauded Google's precautions as a major step in the right direction.

"This is an extremely positive development," said Ari Schwartz, deputy director of the Center for Democracy and Technology. "It's the type of thing we have been advocating for a number of years."

Google and its rivals all say they keep information about their users so they can learn more about them as they strive to deliver the most relevant responses.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 02:25:02]


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