Google to erase information on billions of internet searches
London Guardian | March 15, 2007
Google will erase personal information on billions of internet searches in an attempt to secure the privacy of its users, the company has announced.
Peter Fleischer, a lawyer for Google, said: "We believe that privacy is one of the cornerstones of trust. We will be retroactively going back into our log database and anonymising all the information there."
The search engine, which is being sued for $1bn by the media company Viacom for alleged copyright infringement, said it would destroy huge tracts of identifying information it holds on internet searches. Information such as who made what search and when is kept "for as long as useful" but under the new policy, all identifying data will be erased after 18-24 months.
UK organisations are legally bound to hold such data for at least a year to allow police to trawl through it if they need access. Mr Fleischer said requests for information from governments and law enforcement were a "routine matter" but denied that the new policy was specifically intended to prevent government access to private information.
Last year Google successfully challenged an attempt by the US government to force internet companies to reveal their databases. The White House claimed it wanted access to records of internet searches to identify terrorist suspects, in what Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, called "a complete violation of our users' rights".
In a separate move, Microsoft vowed yesterday to wage war on so-called "typo-squatters" who buy trademark-infringing websites. The software company says unscrupulous traders are unfairly profiting from the typing errors of web surfers and is filing lawsuits around the world to raise awareness.
So-called typosquatters buy websites with names very close to existing trademarks and fill the website with adverts to make money when users mistype the original name. The Seattle-based company claims such actions are in bad faith and use its trademarks to reap illegitimate profits.
Jean-Christophe Le Toquin, a Microsoft lawyer in Europe, said: "This is a new area for us but we estimate that 2,000 new domains targeting our property are opened every day." He claimed there were thousands of sites, affecting many global firms and brands. "There are 112m domain names around the world, which is 30% more than a year ago, and this is substantially due to this sort of activity."
The World Intellectual Property Organisation has identified the proliferation of new internet domains as a reason for the rise in squatting disputes, which it says are now at their highest point in six years.
Microsoft is suing five groups in the UK that have squatted on its trademarks. One of them, the Dyslexic Domain Company, has agreed an out of court settlement of £24,000. "This is just about profit, profit, profit," said Mr Toquin. "Each click provides a few cents but if you're talking about hundreds or thousands of sites then it's a really large amount of money."