Log-deleting search engine wins award

Out-Law News | 18 Jul 2008 | 9:15 am | 2 min. read

A search engine that deletes all data relating to users after 48 hours has been awarded the first privacy award of a European body set up to promote privacy. The award was presented by European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx.

Ixquick is a Dutch meta search engine which runs queries through existing search engines, and is committed to deleting user data to protect their privacy.

The Privacy Seal is an award from EuroPriSe, whose members include the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, the data protection authorities from Madrid and France, the Austrian Academy of Science and the London Metropolitan University.

Ixquick chief executive Robert Beens told this week's edition of OUT-LAW Radio that the award was an important validation that his company follows through on its privacy pledges.

"It's the ultimate proof to our users that Ixquick does what we say we're doing," said Beens. "It's the proof we live up to our promises."

Ixquick is a 10-year-old search engine but in 2006 Beens decided to make privacy its defining feature.

"In June of 2006 we were the first search engine to start deleting our users' privacy sensitive details from our log files," said Beens. "It started when I was doing a legal view of the company and I tried to do an in-depth investigation of our own liabilities and one of them was our keeping of user data."

"So I asked the technology people what exactly are we keeping and why are we keeping those data?" said Beens. "I said, 'Why are we keeping those data?' – and they didn't give me a good answer."

"The only safe way of keeping someone's personal data is by deleting it," he said.

European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx has been a consistent opponent of larger search engines' policies of retaining search query data for up to 18 months. He said that the Privacy Seal was a good way to make it clear which companies have privacy friendly policies.

"The awarding of the first European Privacy Seal to the meta search engine Ixquick marks an important milestone to implement privacy on the World Wide Web and highlights this privacy-friendly service," said Hustinx.

"Customers and enterprises benefit from easy identification of an IT product as ensuring or enhancing European Data Protection rules in the processing of data," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the information society. "The award of the first European Privacy Seal to the meta-search engine Ixquick underlines that a balance between the open nature of the internet, providers' interests and the protection of personal data of internet users is possible."

Privacy watchdogs have been at loggerheads with Google in particular about the retention of search logs. Google has argued that it believes the Data Retention Directive orders it to keep the data, but a committee of EU data protection regulators said that it believed that the Directive applied only to telecoms companies and not to web content companies such as Google.