Google has defended the length of time it retains web-users' data following the release of a report on the way European data-protection laws should be applied to web-search services.

In its report, which was published last week, the Article 29 Working Party recommended that search services should be doing more to protect web users data. Failing to do so may be viewed as unlawful, according to the report.

"It is the opinion of the Working Party that search engines, in their role as collectors of user data, have so far insufficiently explained the nature and purpose of their operations to the users of their services," the report states.

"The Working Party does not see a basis for a retention period [for user data] beyond six months," the study concludes.

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However, Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, said in a statement the search engine disagreed with key findings of the report.

"We believe that data-retention requirements have to take into account the need to provide quality products and services for users, like accurate search results, as well as system security and integrity concerns," Fleischer said.

"Based on our own analysis, we believe that whether or not an IP address is personal data depends on how the data is being used," Fleischer added.

Traditionally internet companies have stored data on web surfers for years, however last year Google decided to limit how long it stored such data to just 18 months.