Google User Data Life Span Reduced to 9 Months

The phrase 9 months normally evokes a few mental images: pregnancy, parenthood, a forgettable film starring Julianne Moore and Hugh Grant.

However, this morning I see Google.

That’s because late last night Google announced it will make its user data anonymous after 9 months.

Today, we’re announcing a new logs retention policy: we’ll anonymize IP addresses on our server logs after 9 months. We’re significantly shortening our previous 18-month retention policy to address regulatory concerns and to take another step to improve privacy for our users.

While I don’t expect Hugh Grant to star in a movie about Google’s user data retention policy anytime soon, this move should make a few other Europeans happy.

The European Union has repeatedly pressured Google to reduce the amount of time it keeps user data. Under pressure from the EU and privacy advocates, Google announced in March 2007 that it would anonymize its search server logs after 18 months. But Google says that this move wasn’t enough for the EU:

Some in the community of EU data protection regulators continued to be skeptical of the legitimacy of logs retention and demanded detailed justifications for this retention.

Of course the longer Google can hold onto user data, the more useful it is for ad targeting and “innovation.” It’s unclear exactly when the new 9-month policy will take effect.

Google has also announced that it will anonymize user data collected via its Google Suggest feature in about 24 hours.

So what kind of personal data does Google collect from its users? Read our Google Knows More about You than Your Spouse Does article.