News is breaking that the European Commission could push for laws to restrict the personal search data held by search companies to no longer than six months, after which it must be discarded. The EC Article 29 data Protection Working Party seems to be heading for a confrontation with search engine giants, most of whom hang on to such data for much, much longer.
The European Commission will argue that this data can be used to build profiles even when some identifying information is deleted, and historically the privacy implications surrounding such profiling have been made pretty clear it has to be said. Anyone recall the great AOL Search debacle when journalists were able to track individuals down despite identifying material being removed from the research database?
The Article 29 report recommends data should be deleted or otherwise made 'irreversibly anonymous' after it no longer serves any purpose and suggests that this would be an absolute maximum of six months.
Google insists that it was the first company to anonymise search logs and that user privacy is at the heart of all its products. Yahoo also says it is committed to providing clear and comprehensive privacy policies. Yet both, of course, retain that data for longer than six months. It will be interesting to see where we go from here and juts how messy things get.