In an effort to protect users of its Chinese website, Google is to move search records out of China to the US.
The company launched the Chinese version of its site, Google.cn, in January, hosted in China and adhering to Chinese censorship laws.
Now the company says it will store search records from the site outside China to prevent the Chinese government from being able to access the data without Google's consent.
Google retains information on the search queries performed by its users, along with the IP addresses associated with queries, to better understand how its search engine is being used.
But critics worry that such information could put users' privacy at risk by allowing anyone in possession of the information to learn who has been searching for what.
Data retention became an issue after Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL revealed they had provided search records after being subpoenaed last August by the US Department of Justice.
It’s not just the Chinese government that might want to access search data. The needs of law enforcement in the wake of terrorism now means that whatever you innocently – or not so innocently – search for on your computer is now a potential target for police authorities. The balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the state has certainly shifted.