Storing of search history backed by MEPs


MEPs are backing a controversial ruling that would make search engines store details of all web searches in order to track child abusers.

Written Declaration 29, which was formed by two MEPs in the European Union as an "early warning system" against paedophiles and sex offenders, would require the likes of Google and Bing to keep track of search terms for even longer than the two years currently required.

It has gained support of 324 MEPs and only needs 45 more to enforce an examination by the European Commission.

The new declaration has drawn criticism from civil liberties groups, questioning the impact it will have on privacy.

"It is not acceptable or appropriate to dissolve the fundamental right to privacy on the basis of an utterly incoherent argument that it will protect our children - when clearly it will ultimately fail to meet such a mandate," said Privacy International in a statement.

"Our representatives should focus on solutions that are credible and viable rather than supporting ideas that we might have expected from North Korea."

This latest move from MEPs is contradicts to one made two weeks ago by the EU's Article 29 Data Protection Working Party.

The party's chairman, Jacob Kohnstamm, wrote a letter to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo telling them to cut down the time they held IP addresses from search terms from nine to six months, due to privacy concerns.

He wrote: "Fair and lawful processing of personal data by search engines is becoming more and more crucial due to the explosion and proliferation of audiovisual data (digital images, audio and video content) and the increasing use of geolocation on the internet."

"Given the predominant role of the Google search engine in the daily lives of all citizens of the European information society, the apparent lack of focus on privacy in this area is concerning."

Google responded by saying its current policy provided "the best experience for users both in terms of respect for their privacy and the quality and security of our services," whilst Microsoft said it was happy to adhere to the party's recommendation.

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.