Google just announced that their cookies will auto-delete two years after your last Google visit, rather than expiring in the year 2039 as previously planned. There's been a flurry of news on the subject, and I have to ask – what's the big deal?
None of us goes two years without googling a single thing, to say nothing of Street Viewing friends' new apartments or checking our email. That's not to say a better competitor may emerge at some point in the future, but for right now Google is the key player and their privacy decisions set the norms. Two years is a lifetime online, and Google will rack up a huge corpus of search information even if the cookie ever does expire. Which it won't, because it renews whenever you use a Google service. Functionally, there's no difference between a cookie that lasts forever and an eternally renewing cookie. Their current policy of anonymizing search data after 18 months means that your search data will be tied to your unique cookie ID for a year and a half. Better stop googling your exes, your social security number, and topless photos of Keira Knightley – at least until you delete the cookie yourself.
Google claims they need the cookie to keep track of user preferences like the number of search results on a page, language and parental control settings, and of course your Gmail login. But they use the same cookie to track your activities online, enabling their Web History service along creating a profile on you that they can send to advertisers or turn over in response to subpoenas.
Here's how to anonymize your Google cookie .
And Here are EFF's tips on privatizing your search history.
Eerily appropriate thumbnail photo courtesy of massless .