Google in dispute with EU data protectionists about retention of IP addresses
Google is rejecting claims by EU data protection officers that IP addresses are personal data even when processed by service providers. In the company's Public Policy Blog, Google staff member Alma Whitten argues that it's not possible to connect an IP address to an individual user. She claims that only internet service providers can link an address to a user, since they are the ones who assign IP addresses to end users.
The EU's "Article 29 working party", which exists to advise the European Commission on data protection laws, saw things differently last week when it stated, "The EU's data protection directive applies to search engines if the IP addresses of users or information about search queries is collected." The EU therefore argues that search engines service providers must abide by EU law even if they are not based in the EU. Whitten counters that web sites all over the world record IP addresses, which should not be seen as personal data because they cannot normally be assigned to individual users.
Last May, EU data protectionists criticised Google for the first time, claiming that retention of search queries by the search engine specialist might constitute a violation of European privacy law. In June, Google reacted by announcing that it would shorten the deadline for the anonymisation of server logs; in June, the service life of cookies was also shortened. Whitten reminds her readers of these changes in her recent blog entry and argues that, in the end, user trust is the foundation for success.