Google still stores users' IP addresses for up to nine months, while Yahoo anonymizes search and other data after three months.
In response to scrutiny from European regulators, Microsoft has announced it will limit the amount of time it stores search data to six months, down from the 18 months it agreed to in 2007.
The move was a result of "ongoing dialogue with privacy advocates, consumer groups, and regulators -- including the Article 29 Working Party, the group of 27 European national data protection regulators charged with providing advice to the European Commission and other EU institutions on data protection," according to a post from the firm's Chief Privacy Strategist Peter Cullen on its blog on Monday.
In relation to that scrutiny, competitor Google in September agreed to limit the amount of time it stores users' IP addresses to nine months but argued that any further reduction in that period would begin to hamper its innovation in the search space.
Microsoft, however, appears to believe six months is workable. "Studying trends in search queries enables us to improve the quality of our results, protect against fraud and maintain a secure and viable business. But consumer privacy can and must be preserved. For our part, Microsoft continues to examine our practices to ensure we strike the right balance and achieving both goals," Cullen wrote.
In December 2008, Yahoo announced it would anonymize user search data in addition to pageview, ad view and ad click data within 90 days. Ask.com claims to allow users to remove their data entirely from its systems.
Microsoft says its new policies should be in place within the next 18 months, and that it "applauds the Article 29 Working Party for its leadership on this important issue."
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Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011.
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