Thursday, September 13, 2007

Search Engines React to EU Resolutions

The difference between the European approach to privacy and that followed in the U.S. has impacted the privacy practices of many search engines. Google has reduced the period after which its server logs will be made anonymous to 18 months, and its cookie retention period was reduced to 2 years. Other search engines quickly followed the lead. Yahoo! and Microsoft met Google's challenge, or implemented even shorter periods. It is likely that these moves were in reaction to the publication of an EU resolution on privacy protection and search engines last November, in which they called on the search engines "to respect the basic rules of privacy...and to change their practices accordingly." In the US, there is no one comprehensive and all-encompassing piece of legislation governing privacy to which all sectors of the economy are subject. Thus, US companies rely more on industry self-regulation and public pressure. Thus, the moves by the big three search engines can be seen as bowing to the concerns of the European public. Search engines are under pressure to deliver more targeted information to marketers, but also realize that customers have to feel comfortable that the information collected will be kept private. Successful search engines' business must start and end with consumer trust.

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