Google is cutting the length of time before its users’ preference-storing cookies expire – by about three decades. If not deleted manually by a user, Google’s “PREF” cookie, which is stored on a user’s machine to keep hold of basic preferences like search language settings, was set by developers to auto-expire in 2038. But, after continued privacy concerns, Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer announced that duration was now being cut to just two years. Regular Google users will find their cookies get updated to take account of the new time limit.
It’s the second major modification to Google’s privacy practices in the last couple of months. Following considerable criticism from privacy advocates and a growing inquiry at the European Commission, Google agreed to bring forward the duration after which it anonymizes user data kept on its server logs – from to years down to 18 months. But user cookies store much less information than server logs and can be deleted by by consumers themselves. Fleischer cited both moves as part of an “ongoing plan” in its privacy commitments.