EU And Search Engines Battle Over Privacy Laws
EU And Search Engines Battle Over Privacy LawsDec 18 2008 - Multilingual - Farhad Divecha
It is a well known fact that search engines retain data regarding the searches conducted by their clients for a long period of time. While they may have their reasons for doing so, the EU has taken objection to this practice, as it affects the privacy of users.
The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, which deals with the protection of the privacy of citizens in the EU, is of the opinion that the search engines should delete all identifiable data of the user after 6 months, as the search engines keep tabs on what their users are searching for, or buying and from where etc.
Getting the search engines to accept this demand is not going to be easy, and it may take a long time to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.
It will not be possible for the EU to force their decision on the Search engines, as these companies run their operations worldwide, and it is not possible for them to use a different set of rules regarding privacy, for each country or region they operate in.
The Article 29 Data Protection Working Party does not have the power to enforce their decisions on the search engine providers, but they are currently discussing, the length of time after which user data should be deleted. They are also discussing how effective the measures taken by the search engine providers are, to protect the privacy of the user.
While the IP address is the most reliable and efficient clue to the users location even that is not 100% accurate.
The largest Search engine in Europe, Google, (which holds almost 80% of the market share) will obviously be in a position to call the shots here. They had agreed in September to cut down their data retaining time, from 18 months to 9 months.
Yahoo had offered to cut down to 13 months.
On the other hand Microsoft, which holds only about 2% of the market share, has agreed to accept the EU demands fully provided all others agree to do so.
The reason search engines wish to hold on to user data for a long time, is that they make use of it to find their target audience for the purpose of advertising which is their main source of revenue.
It looks as though the best way to get the search engines to agree to the EU demands would be to put pressure on them through the users while continuing negotiations across the table.