EU warns Google over user privacy

World's leading search engine could be in trouble with European lawmakers over the way and length of time it retains data on people search habits.

European Union officials have contacted Google, warning the company that it could be in breach of European privacy laws by retaining records of user searches.

In a letter to Google management, a group of national advisory bodies that counsels the European Union on privacy policy expressed concern the company was keeping information on users' searches for too long, a spokeswoman for Google in Paris said on Friday.

A letter to Google from a group of national advisory bodies that counsels the European Union on privacy policy expressed concern the company was keeping information on users' searches for too long, a spokeswoman for Google in Paris said. The main area of concern is that Google is said to be keeping records of people's searches for as long as two years.

"The concern is about keeping information about people's search for a definite period of time ranging from 18 to 24 months," the spokeswoman said. "They (the Article 29 working party) believe it is too long."

With every search, Google gathers information about a customer's tastes, interests and beliefs which could potentially be used by third parties ranging from religious groups to advertisers.

The spokeswoman added that Google, at its own initiative, had decided earlier this year to limit to up to two years the period during which it kept users' data. She said the company had not set any limit previously.

Google said it was preparing its reply to the letter before the working party's next meeting in June.

"We are committed to engaging in a constructive dialogue with privacy stakeholders, including the Article 29 working party, on how to improve privacy practices for the benefit of Google users and for everyone on the Internet," Peter Fleischer, Google's privacy counsel, said in a statement.

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