EU privacy rules will harm swine flu tracking capability, says Google

European privacy concerns are all good and well, but EU plans to make Google cut the time it holds user data by a third could hamper it ability to predict pandemics such as swine flu.

The European Commission says user data should not be held longer than six months, but Google’s co-founder Larry Page has criticised the idea, according to the BBC

Page says there needs to be more debate around the issue of storing user data because Google’s ability to plot and predict potential pandemics will be adversely affected.

Google claims to be able to spot a potential pandemic ahead of government agencies because it uses search data to track flu trends.

Increased searches for terms like ‘flu’ in combination with searches using flu symptoms are fed in to Google’s flu tracking applications.

It is all a question of balancing benefits with risk, as was illustrated at an interesting debate on  government and privacy hosted by the Information Comissioner’s Office in London last week.

But who should make those decisions? Who is really qualified? Is anyone in government really able to make that call without involving the electorate?

This really is a tricky one, but personally I would am more concerned about a swine flu pandemic than the risk of someone building a profile of me based on Google search data.