Not before time, Microsoft has decided to take a long hard look at their data retention choices for Bing users. Where previously the length of time IP addresses using the search engine were stored for a year and half, moves are in place to cut this to six months.
Coming well over a year after Google slashed their data retention from 18 months to nine, a Microsoft statement told how under their current policy, “as soon as Microsoft receives a Bing search query we take steps to de-identify the data by separating it from account information that could identify the person who performed the search. Then, at 18 months, we take the additional step of deleting the IP address, the de-identified cookie ID and any other cross-session IDs associated with the query.
However, they added, “The core components of this policy will not change. Our new policy will change the date at which we delete the IP address associated with search queries to six months. We will implement the new policy over the next 12 to 18 months.”
Examining the reasons behind the move, both TheRegister.co.uk and PCWorld.com both note that this is Microsoft following Google’s lead in responding to pressure from European data protection officials, who are concerned about the privacy implications of retaining an IP address.
The Article 29 committee, comprising data protection officials from all 27 EU countries, has asked the leading search engine makers to respond to their concerns by the end of this month.
IP addresses cannot positively identify the person sitting at a computer or accessing the net via their phone, but they can identify the computer or phone being used, and the hardware can often be linked to a person.
“There are many good reasons to retain and review search data. Studying trends in search queries enables us to improve the quality of our results, protect against fraud and maintain a secure and viable business,” claimed Microsoft’s privacy chief, Peter Cullen.