Google has announced it will auto-expire cookies after a period of two years of not visiting a Google site. It is also making good on a previous promise to reduce the amount of time it keeps personal information.

Before its announcement, you'd have had a Google cookie on your machine for the life of your PC (unless you cleared it out). But there is a key question here - who exactly doesn't visit Google for a period of two years?

More importantly though is Google promising to reduce the amount of personal information held. "We will anonymise our search server logs - including IP addresses and cookie ID numbers - after 18 months," said Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel at Google.

In reality though, this move is somewhat older , as requested by our old friends at the EU. Speaking about the development last month, EU justice chief Franco Frattini said he appreciated the "commitment of Google" in not only meeting his expectations concerning privacy protection, but bettering them.

Cookie lifetime

As for the cookies, Fleisher said the company had "concluded that it would be a good thing for privacy to significantly shorten the lifetime of our cookies - as long as we could find a way to do so without artificially forcing users to re-enter their basic preferences at arbitrary points in time. And this is why we're announcing a new cookie policy."

If you continue to use Google sites, your cookie will auto-renew anyway, so you won't have to worry (shock, horror) about your login or preference information being forgotten in two years' time.