Google cuts how long it stores users' personal data

Web search engine page Google is shown on a computer screen in this photo taken in Toronto, March 29, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

MOUNTAIN VIEW, California (Reuters) - Google Inc has halved the amount of time it stores personal data gathered from its users’ Web surfing habits, a move aimed at improving its privacy policies, a company official said.

Google used to store such data for 18 months, but has now trimmed that duration to nine months.

Nicole Wong, Google’s deputy general counsel, told a meeting of computer industry privacy experts at Microsoft Corp’s Silicon Valley offices that her company planned to “anonymize” the computer addresses of its users more quickly.

“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,” Google officials said in a blog post released Monday night.

Peter Cullen, chief privacy strategist for Microsoft Corp, said Google’s move was done in response to pressure from European regulators and by industry rivals.

Cullen, who was taking part in panel discussion with Wong, said that until a year-and-a-half ago, Google had kept personally identifiable information about its Web users on company computers for an indefinite amount of time.

Google adopted an 18-month privacy policy only after pressure from the European Union, he said.

Reporting by Eric Auchard; Editing by Derek Caney