EU privacy panel urges deletion of search data

A European Union privacy panel wants internet search engine providers like Google and Yahoo to delete data taken from users after six months, even when they operate abroad, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the new report from the EU-funded privacy watchdog recommended that search engines follow European data protection rules regardless of their headquarters' location.

Although the watchdog has no policy powers, its report could lead to stricter privacy rules, the report said.

The EU's executive, the European Commission, is currently redrafting data-protection rules for the 27-nation bloc, it said.

The panel's report said search engines fall under EU laws if they collect users' numeric internet Protocol, or IP, addresses or track search history using a unique ID on small data files called cookies installed on users' computers.

Most search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft's MSN and Time Warner's AOL, do so to gather insights on usage.

Google was the first to cut the time it stored search information to 18 months. Microsoft now has an 18-month policy, while Yahoo and AOL retain search requests for 13 months.

But the EU watchdog said it 'does not see a basis for a retention period beyond six months,' the report said.

The group of privacy officers said information recorded on users, such as what search terms were used and whether users clicked on any of the results, should be erased after that time to better protect the privacy of users and to avoid any possible misuse of the data, the Associated Press report further said.