Steve Watson
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Google has cited a possible influenza pandemic as a reason why it should be allowed to permanently retain users’ search data without restrictions.

There is an ongoing debate within the European Commission as to how long web companies should be able to keep such data, with privacy advocates suggesting it be wiped after six months.

However, Google co-founder Larry Page has suggested that the company should not be hindered in retaining search data, rather ludicrously suggesting that the more restrictions there are on data retention, the "more likely we all are to die".

"Our up-to-date influenza estimates may enable public health officials and health professionals to better respond to seasonal epidemics and pandemics," Page is reported to have claimed at Google annual Zeitgeist conference in London.


He said Google’s ability to plot and predict potential pandemics would not be possible if the firm had to delete search data after six months, the BBC reports.

Sci-Tech website The Register points out that Google has previously boasted that its flu estimates are available each day because Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly.

Which raises a question: if the point of using web searches to track disease is that the data is instantly available, how does data that is more than six months old help, let alone make us all less likely to die? The Register asks.

Only hardened cynics (ahem) would suggest that the push for long term retention of search data is intrinsically tied to Google’s mass profit making target advertising campaigns.

Related Articles