15th Nov 2019

EU looks into Google data collection

EU data protection officials are questioning whether Google - the company behind the world's most popular search engine - is violating EU law on data protection by storing personal information of the search engine user for up to two years.

In a letter to the internet company's European office in Paris last week, the EU's data protection advisory agency – called the Article 29 Working Group - asked Google whether it had "fulfilled all the necessary requirements" on data protection as well as asking for more details on the company's plans on retaining data, according to UK daily the Financial Times.

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  • EU neighbour Norway has begun its own investigation into Google (Photo: EUobserver)

Google gathers and retains the information of the search term typed in on its website, the address of the internet server and, if possible, the personal information stored in "cookies" on an individual's computer.

The information is currently retained for an unknown amount of time but the company announced in March that it would at the end of 2007 start to make anonymous IP address and cookie information 18 to 24 months after the log files are generated.

The data is collected for security purposes to help guard against hacking and people trying to misuse Google's advertising system, the company says.

But privacy groups are concerned that the collected data put together can be used to identify individuals and create profiles of their political opinions, religious beliefs and sexual preferences.

Google's privacy counsel in Paris Peter Fleischer told Bloomberg News that the company will reply to the EU working group before their next meeting in June.

"We are committed to engaging in a constructive dialogue with privacy stakeholders, including the Article 29 Working Party, on how to improve privacy practices for the benefit of Google users and for everyone on the Internet," Mr Fleischer said.

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