EU probes Google, Yahoo and Microsoft about data

The EU has instructed search engines that operate in Europe to bring their data protection policies in line with their rules after finding that some major search engines don’t comply.

In its Article 29 report, the Data Protection Working Party cited Google, Microsoft and Yahoo as some of the offenders. It said that their methods of making users’ search data anonymous still do not comply with the European Union’s Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC.

However, it was Google that was really hauled over the coals. It was asked to reduce the length of time it stores individuals’ data from nine months to six months. Prior to September 2008, Google held the data for 18 months.

“Considering Google’s dominant position in almost every EU Member State, with a market share of up to 95 per cent in some national search engine markets, the company has a significant role in European citizens’ daily lives. The company’s apparent lack of focus in data retention is concerning,” the group said.

However, letters were also sent to all three companies asking them to use an outside auditor to advise them in their data anonymising processes.

We contacted Google who sent us a statement. It said:”Google was the first search engine to reduce the time it stores search logs, and the first to anonymise them. We develop our policies based on what provides the best experience for usersboth in terms of respect for their privacy and the quality and security of our services.

“Our current retention policy represents the most responsible balance between these two important concerns.”