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Google looks at search privacy opt-in

Data retention opt-in on the cards for users' personalised search results.

Google is considering making personal search data retention an opt-in service for users of the search engine.

The company recently reach a compromise with the EU whereby user data would be retained for a limited period of 18 months. And it may be prepared to make further concessions on user privacy, according to Google's VP of Search Products, Marissa Mayer, speaking at the company's European Press Day.

Would the restriction impact on Google's ability to deliver personalised search results? No, said Mayer. "I actually think this is a good compromise - 18 months hosting data is good enough to personalise search results," she insisted.

What about the ability for users to explicitly opt-in for data to be retained for a greater length of time? Mayer didn't rule it out. "I don't know, it's possible," she said. "With explicit consent [from the user], it is something we may consider doing."

Booming index

The company also boasted that it now indexes three times as many web pages as its nearest rival, which we can safely assume is a reference to Yahoo! Mayer noted the now distant day in June 2000 when Google became 'giga Google' - passing the billion mark for indexed pages - and said the company now measured its data in terms of tens of billions of pages.

Mayer also hinted that the company is making progress with Semantic Web search. "We can do an approximate job of the Semantic Web," said Mayer, adding that Google was always working to understand web "entitites" when people search online for information.

But rather than deduce a single meaning through logical deduction, she said the company would continue to rely primarily on brute processing power - exploring all possibilities to find the "best fit" for a user's search results. "This is what computers are good for," she said.

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