back to article Google in cookie concession to dead people

Hoping to appease privacy advocates who've come down hard on its data retention policies, Google has made a practically meaningless change to its cookie policy. The world's most popular search engine will soon issue browser cookies that automatically expire if you don't come back to the site for two years. El Reg estimates …


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  1. Patch Tuesday

    does it matter......?

    will anyone really be using the same hardware in 2038?

    will cookies be in the same format?

    will google still exist?

  2. Matt Bucknall

    I don't get it.

    What exactly is it that Google stores that people are getting so worked up about?

    Are they storing my bank account details? My passport number? My address, phone number, biometric data?

    No! They're not. So what if they store my search queries and IP address? I really couldn't give a toss.

  3. Jason Irwin

    Google should...

    ...allow me (the suer) to determine what data they can keep, what they can't and for how long it can be identified against me. Personally I'd have them either anonymise it or destroy it within hours.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I don't get it.

    I have to agree with Matt here, I really don't see any problems with Cookies having a long life span as after all everyone using the site should be aware of them by now and getting rid of them is quite a simple matter so the onus should really be with how long the user feels like keeping them.

    As for search data, again it's something we all know about and the majority of search engines do it after all they're a business and information like that allows them to sell themselves better so again the choice is really with us to either deal with that or not use them.

  5. David Brooks

    Do you use gmail?

    If you are signed up for gmail or any of the other google services, you presumably have logged in at some point and so they know who you (said you) are. If you use adsense they know your address and financial information. They potentially have a history of everything you search for, at what time, where from, etc.

    Its a good job Google "do no evil" really!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Do you use gmail?

    You could say the same about most internet email providers though, look at Microsoft and Hotmail. Have you got a Windows Live account tied to your Hotmail address, any Microsoft certifications linked in to that. Where ever you go online there is always a trace, it's just Google seems to be slightly more honest about it that some other companies.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I don't get it.

    Well everything about you, from medical compaints to what car you own. With Google Checkout, Maps, and Email the situation is even worse than AOL was. it doesn't take a genious to build up a profile about someone.

    "his user has problems with their toyota emmissions, has recently lost a dog and would like to know "cause of death in dog with sudden vomiting and rectal bleeding", is curious about "vaginal itching and itchy bumps" and whose house seems to be falling apart with "why cold water won't fill in clothes washer","clogged toilet lines" and "how to repair pin hole leak in water line". They also toy with the idea of some "nude males" and "free porn" with little luck.

    I sympathise.


  8. William Towle

    Google's Cookie

    Apparently, Google stores a unique identifier in the cookie in addition to search preferences. This means search terms are(/could be) distinguishable between individuals above and beyond the extent which a possibly-shared IP address allows.

    For the paranoid, instructions for avoiding the cookie are here (unverified, I'm not that bothered personally):

  9. Will Leamon

    Oh No...

    Looks like the days of the Google FanBoi are upon us.

  10. Dave

    Delete your cookies

    Just delete your cookies frequently and it's a bit harder for them to see what you're doing. I've got Firefox set to delete all cookies every session so as it crashes every week or so, I get to clear the cookies fairly regularly. I've never set preferences so I'm happy with it on defaults for the most part.

  11. Graham Marsden

    Who's watching you?

    Given that I don't tend to want to re-visit search results once I've found what I'm looking for, why does Google apparently need to be able to know what I searched for yesterday or last week or last year?

    Will this somehow give me "better" search results in future? I don't think so.

    Will this allow others to monitor what I've searched for? Well, yes it could.

    Let's say I'm engaged in a discussion about terrorism in a chat forum, so I look up Bin Laden and Bomb Making and Glasgow and Propane and so on...

    John Law demands Google hand over information on searches and maybe this time they make the subpoena stick (remember Google only refused to obey the previous one because "it might reveal proprietory algorithms" not because it was a breach of Civil Rights!) and "Oho! We've got a terrorists suspect here...!"

  12. mahoney

    call off the conspiracy dogs

    Will it really affect my life if 30 years later, somebody knows that I did searches on "dragonball", "cubase" and "gay horse porn" today?

  13. Graham Marsden



    Will it really affect your life? I don't know. And neither do you. And neither does anyone else.

    So do you go for the naiive "if you've nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear" approach or prefer the more circumspect: "It's nobody's damn business but mine!"?

  14. Koen Martens

    call off the conspiracy dogs

    If in 30 years there's a law that all people that are interested in sex with animals are to be killed on the spot, would you still not care?

    The point is that the context changes. What is innocent now, might be incriminating later on.

  15. Chris


    Most of the people that complain about the cookies would complain if google lost their preferences every week. I mean, I'd get annoyed if I had to turn "safe search" off every few days again. But I don't really see the need for having a cookie for 2 years. 6 months and have it self extending? Sure, makes sense to me.

  16. Steve Roper

    Google's policies have their uses

    I was quite amazed the first time I saw my search history on my iGoogle profile pages. Every single search, every single site I've ever visited, from home or from work, all indexed and itemised by date and time, was there. Scary stuff...

    However, because of it, I was able to locate several web pages I had read a couple of months previously, and needed to refer to again in order to win an argument I was having at the time. I'd neglected to bookmark the pages or StumbleUpon vote them, so having Google record my Internet history in this case proved a boon.

    No doubt of course Google have access to all of this, and would be able to build an extremely detailed profile on me, which I don't really like the idea of - but then, given that I am just one of however many hundred million people using Google, can they really be arsed doing this? The best they can do is write an algorithm that looks at what I search for and the sites I visit, and post Google ads based on that.

    I say "would" because that would be if I didn't have AdBlock Plus running under Firefox as a well as ruleset on my router blocking most major ad servers. I actually can't remember the last time I even saw an ad on the Internet (whoops - I did, on one site a couple of weeks ago a single banner ad slipped through and was on my screen for all of three seconds before I AdBlocked it.) So even if Google do profile me, their advertising isn't going to reach me anyway. Add to that the fact that I frequently pepper my searches with outlandish queries like "bomb making instructions" and "iguana mating rituals" just to see what comes up, and the profile isn't even an accurate representation of my lifestyle or interests. (Incidentally, that's how I first found the Reg - it came up in response to my search for "vulture breeding information"!)

  17. Sceptical Bastard

    Call yourselves paranoid?


    You guys are really NOT paranoid at all!

    For example (above):

    "I've got Firefox set to delete all cookies every session so as it crashes every week or so, I get to clear the cookies fairly regularly."

    'Every week or so' is not even 'fairly' regularly. Every few minutes is regularly.

    I use FF's 'clear private data' (Ctrl+Shift+Del) virtually every time I change a page and I have FF set to delete all private data at closing. If using webmail I close FF, Stephen Gould's 'CleanUp!', then re-open to continue browsing. (In fact, I use Gould's 'CleanUp!' a lot).

    Another example (above)

    "I'd get annoyed if I had to turn 'safe search' off every few days again." Convenience (or laziness) triumphing over security? I mean just how onerous is changeing the search preference in Google?

    Changing a preference on a serverside app means another cookie so I use FF's delete private data immediately after any session which places cookies (which might mean half-a-dozen times an hour).

    Also, because my ISP allocates dynamic IP addresses, I tend to break the connection fairly frequently during the day (takes only a few seconds to re-connect) which slightly inhibits Google establishing a direct linkage between search sessions.

    I don't search for porn: I don't run scams: I'm not planning to kill anyone or blow up parliament. In fact, I've got nothing to hide. But that's besides the point: I value my privacy and I'm prepared to suffer a few minutes daily inconvenience to retain some of it.

    If I wanted to do anything nasty online (which I don't) I'd at least go to the trouble of doing it from behind Tor or using a public computer (in a town away from my home area).

    As for Google "doing no evil" and being a cuddly outfit run by groovy laid-back hipsters Serge and Larry... what utter bollocks! Google is a huge, aggressively-acquisitive, rapidly-expanding, information-hoarding multinational corporation. The less a commercial entity like that knows about me, the better.

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