Search engines failing to protect users, say European regulators

The world’s largest search engines have been accused of not doing enough to protect the privacy of users.

According to a report by the Financial Times, technology firms Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have all come in for criticism and been accused of breaking EU data rules.

A group made up of representatives from the 27 member states is concerned about what is being done with data collected by search engines that relates to people’s online habits. The main issues concern the length of time data is being stored, how easily it can be traced back to individuals and the possibilities of it being misused.

The privacy group said in a statement: “A user’s search history contains a footprint of users’ interests and personal relations. This information can be misused in many ways.”

In a letter to the search firms, the group said all three continue to be in breach of EU data protection rules as a result of their methods of making users’ search data anonymous.

The group wants Google to reduce storage time from nine to six months. The FT said in response, Google had stressed it “was the first search engine to reduce the time it stores search logs, and the first to anonymise them”.

Although Yahoo and Microsoft have said they’re making moves to comply with the six month deadline, they have been criticised for failing to allow external inspectors to verify claims.

The  paper said Microsoft was not available for comment, while Yahoo declined.

By Richard Morris

News home

Richard Morris

Richard joined Lakestar McCann as news editor in 2009 and over the past three years has run the company's daily news feed service. Prior to joining the team at Lakestar he worked as a business reporter at Crain's Manchester Business, and spent three years as a general reporter at the North West Evening Mail in Cumbria.

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