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Google Shows User Tracking Has Its Benefits

Most people who follow Google know that the company records the unique Internet Protocol addresses of every computer that connects to its products and services. For example, everything you've every searched for is retained by the search, although per a European Union mandate last year, the company now severs the link between IP addresses and search logs after 18 to 24 months. Privacy watchers and industry critics often wonder whether the potential privacy costs are worth it for consumers.

However, The New York Times' Saul Hansell says Google's user tracking has its benefits, too. Earlier this week, the company announced that Gmail users would soon have the option of seeing which computers are logged into their accounts and can read their mail. Like other Web mail programs, Gmail allows users to keep a given computer signed into their account so they don't have to keep retyping their user name and password. Of course, this means that if you check your mail on someone else's computer and forget to log off, the next person could read your mail. Google's will now give users a link that shows all machines currently logged into their account. It displays the type of machine (PC, mobile phone), the IP address, and how long the machine has been logged in, giving users the option to log out of any machine they don't want reading their mail.

OK, so this may not put to rest the argument about whether Google should be storing all that user information, but it is a handy feature that wouldn't be possible without user tracking
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Read the whole story at The New York Times »

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