At a Google-sponsored UK meeting called European Zeitgeist 2009, Google-co-founder Larry Page said that deleting user data by the six-month maximum period recommended by the EU privacy expert Article 29 Working Party could harm the public. According to a BBC report:Â The European Commission wants data ditched after six months but Mr Page said there were benefits to users.Â “More dialogue is needed [with regulators],” he [Mr. Page] told UK journalists at a Google event in Hertfordshire.Â He said Google’s ability to plot and predict potential pandemics would not be possible if the firm had to delete search data after six months…Mr Page said deleting search data after six months was “in direct conflict” with being able to map pandemics…Mr Page said the less data companies like Google were able to hold the “more likely we all are to die”.Â The European Commission has argued that holding on to search data runs the risk of third parties being able to build profiles of individuals even when some identifying information is deleted.
There is clearly a critical role for data in our society to be analyzed for many reasons–especially public health.Â But for Mr. Page to not acknowledge how Google’s businesses are also tied into such data collection and analysis is unfortunate.Â It underscores how Google’s top managers have failed to effectively recognize their own role in diminishing individual privacy around the world.Â Nor should it go unmentioned that the products they sell on their own advertising platforms may also threaten or challenge the public health–including contributing to the global obesity crisis.