Yahoo announced today it will limit its data retention period to just 90 days, a substantial reduction from its current 13 month policy. The new rules will apply not only to search log data, but also to page views, page clicks, ad views, and ad clicks, the firm said.
The policy “represents Yahoo’s assessment of the minimum amount of time it needs to retain data in order to respond to the needs of its business while deepening its trusted relationship with users,” stated Yahoo’s VP of Policy and Head of Privacy Anne Toth in a press release.
Search firms have been under constant pressure from both privacy advocates and regulators to limit the amount of time they store user data. The European Union has repeatedly expressed concerns over the use of data collected by search engines, and the potential for such data to be used illegally.
In response to this scrutiny, Google halved its own retention period from 18 months to nine in September this year. Microsoft and Ask.com both currently store data by default for 18 months, although Ask now allows users to remove this information within hours if the choose to.
The question among many privacy advocates, however, is what exactly this data is used for, and why it is needed for such a prolonged period. Yahoo claims that neither its users or advertisers will see a difference in Yahoo services as a result of the changes.
Speaking with ClickZ News in February, Google’s Policy Communications Manager for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Jon Steinback, said the data was needed to “maintain the security and innovation” of the company’s systems. Commenting on the nine month reduction in September, Google’s blog stated that any further reduction in this period would begin to limit its ability to further innovate.
Yahoo also pointed out today that exceptions to the 90 day storage period would be made in some instances. To satisfy fraud, security and legal obligations therefore, some information may be kept for longer periods of time, such as system-specific data which will be retained in identifiable form for no more than six months.