Brussels to Google: Shorter Cookies

The European Union's data privacy watchdog hails Google for cutting the time its cookies stay on computers, but may want more

A member of an influential EU privacy group has said it will meet to discuss whether Google has gone far enough in reducing the amount of time the Google cookie stays on computers.

Alexander Dix, Berlin's security and privacy representative, said that the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, a group of European privacy experts, welcomed Google reducing its cookie time to two years but he said the group would discuss whether Google has gone far enough.

Dix said: "It's certainly an improvement but we will have to discuss whether this is enough. It's a good thing that Google has addressed the question of a cookie time limit."

Cookies are small files stored on a computer so that it can be recognised when it revisits websites, enabling the site to remember the user's preferences for things like ecommerce and sites that require log-in.

Dix said that Google renewing the cookie every time a person used either Google or a site using Google applications, such as Google Analytics, was not a major privacy concern, as users could control cookies by configuring their browser.

He said: "People can influence cookies by configuring their browser - they can just accept one session. Users have more choice than with their log profiles."

Even so, cookies are still a concern for the data watchdog, according to Dix, especially cookies users have accepted or rejected without knowing they have done so. However, Dix said that a bigger concern was the anonymisation of server log data, and that the only major search company to disclose its server log data-retention policy so far is Google, which anonymises server logs after 18 to 24 months.

Major search players such as Microsoft and Yahoo! have yet to disclose their server log data-retention policy, Dix said.

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