Microsoft pledges to purge search info

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Microsoft pledges to purge search info

Microsoft is pledging to become the first company to meet European Commission guidelines on search anonymisation.

The company said in a letter to the commission earlier this week that it would be willing to undertake a programme which reduced the retention time of search information to just six months.

The commission first introduced the suggestion in an April report and has been pressing the major search providers to meet the guidelines.

Google did announce a plan to significantly cut its retention time in September. The nine month mark, however, was still too long for the EC's tastes.

"Today, Microsoft has announced that we are prepared to meet the Article 29 Working Party’s search anonymisation guidelines, but believe it is imperative that all search companies adopt the same standard to truly protect people’s privacy," commented John Vassallo, Microsoft associate council and vice president of EU affairs.

"We’ve evaluated the multiple uses of search data and believe that we can, in time, move to a six month timeframe while retaining our strong method of anonymisation."

Though Microsoft admitted that it could meet the EC's standard, the company is holding off until Google also pledges to support the program. Vassallo said the issue is largely a competitive decision, as longer retention times are though to allow companies to provide more detailed results.

The attorney also contended that given Google's dominance in the search market, a policy change by Microsoft would do little to improve user privacy.

"With only 2 per cent of the search market share in Europe today, and a small share globally, a Microsoft policy change would only protect a small portion of internet users," Vassallo contended.

"The largest search provider collects and retains much more search data than any other company and thereby has the greatest impact on the privacy of internet search users."

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