Europe's Article 29 Working Party on data privacy, which advises the European Commission executive, has concluded search engines should reduce the time for which they store users' records to six months, despite Google (NSDQ: GOOG) having made concessions earlier in the process. Responding to previous concerns, Google in June offered to reduce the server-based data retention from 24 to 18 months. It also cut cookie expiry from 30 years to two years.
But the party's "opinion" paper trumps that considerably: "In view of the initial explanations given by search engine providers on the possible
purposes for collecting personal data, the working party does not see a basis for a retention period beyond six months. In case search engine providers retain personal data longer than six months, they will have to demonstrate comprehensively that it is strictly necessary for the service."
Either way, search sites must make users aware of the policy through a notice "easily accessible from their homepage". The EC's justice wing will now have to decide how to adopt the working party's advice. Google's privacy counsel Peter Fleischer said it was merely "another important step in an ongoing dialogue".
By Robert Andrews