EU justice chief welcomes Google privacy move

A European Union official applauded Google's offer to cut by a quarter the time it retains data on its users' searches, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the move comes amid growing concerns that the company could be violating EU privacy rules with its current policy of keeping data for up to 24 months.

Now, the search leader says it will make the information anonymous in 18 months, the report said.

The Associated Press report quoted Franco Frattini, the EU justice and home affairs commissioner, as saying that he welcomes a letter sent by Google to an independent EU data protection panel earlier this week in which the company said it would raise its data privacy standards for all users.

He said he expects an answer soon from Google on other concerns raised by EU experts, including how it uses information collected from cookies, or small data files it and other companies install on web surfers' computers to gather insights on usage.

In the letter, Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said the company's retention period 'complies with' EU data privacy rules, the Associated Press report said.

Google also is going further than other web sites that keep user records indefinitely, he added.

The 28-member data protection panel, which advises the European Commission and EU governments, last month demanded Google answer concerns about the company's practice of storing and retaining user information, the report said.

The EU investigation into Google comes amid growing concerns over the company's privacy practices, the report added.