The Article 29 Working Party, a European Union privacy panel, strongly suggested on Wednesday that search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN delete personal data after six months. The change is meant to better protect user priv

acy online and to help prevent any misuse of the data.

By collecting search engine histories and IP addresses (numbers used to identify computers), companies gain a better perspective of a user’s online habits—vital information for selling targeted advertisements. Search engine companies can tailor advertisements specifically for certain users, increasing the likelihood of them clicking on them.

The report states that “If personal data are stored, the retention period should be no longer than necessary” and “continued storage ... needs an adequate justification."

Google says that it collects information on searches and IP addresses in order to improve search engine results as well as correctly bill advertisers.

Google was the first to respond to recent privacy concerns, storing such personal data for 18 months instead of two years or longer.

Even though the targeted search engine companies are based outside of the 27 country European Union, the privacy panel, funded by the EU, recommended they operate within the Union’s privacy guidelines.

Though the Article 29 Working Party has no direct power to change the law, its report will most likely influence the EU’s executive commission. They are currently rewriting data-protection laws and claim that search engines fall within the 1995 guidelines because they track IP addresses and use cookies to gather web surfing information.

With online privacy a growing international concern, the Article 29 Working Party could be at the forefront of a drastic change in the way search engines retain web surfing information.

More information on the European Union’s data protection guidelines.

By Danny Scuderi
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