Google’s new policy for tracking users: not much different from the old one

Today Peter Fleischer, Google’s (GOOG) Global Privacy Counsel, said Google will make its people-tracking Internet cookies expire after two years instead of lasting for decades. (Cookies are little files that Web sites routinely place on your computer to record your online activity – Google cookies typically had been set to expire in the year 2038.)

There’s one major catch to Google’s new policy, though: From all appearances, the cookies expire only if you stop using Google completely for two years.

From the blog post:

In the coming months, Google will start issuing our users cookies that will be set to auto-expire after 2 years, while auto-renewing the cookies of active users during this time period. In other words, users who do not return to Google will have their cookies auto-expire after 2 years. Regular Google users will have their cookies auto-renew, so that their preferences are not lost. And, as always, all users will still be able to control their cookies at any time via their browsers.

I’m asking Google for clarity on exactly what this means. If the two-year clock literally resets every time you visit Google, I don’t see how this cookie policy is much different from the previous one. It certainly doesn’t do a better job at helping the online masses understand and control just how closely Google watches them.

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