Bing IP Address for Searches to be Deleted every 6 Months

Microsoft promises

By on 19 Jan 2010, 12:07 GMT
A new move by Microsoft is an example to follow for the rest of the search engine market when it comes down in protecting user privacy. Peter Cullen, Microsoft chief privacy strategist, announced at the start of this week that the company had introduced a key change to its data retention policy. As an integral part of the evolution of Microsoft’s Internet search privacy practices, the software giant promises to delete the entire Internet Protocol address associated with queries entered by users in the Bing search engine once every 6 months. The current Microsoft practice is to keep the information for a total of 18 months.

“Under our 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. 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,” Cullen explained.

Bing already offers superior privacy protection to users compared to rival search engines, and especially Google. Recently, Google came under fire from one of its long-time partners, Mozilla, which criticized strongly its privacy policy, and advised users to switch to Bing. Cullen noted that cutting the removal of IP address data from 18 months to just 6 is the result of an evaluation of Microsoft’s business needs and data retention policy. The Redmond company has also taken input from privacy advocates, consumer groups, and regulators, he said. Microsoft has also taken a step necessary to ensure that Bing plays nice with antitrust regulations set in place by the European Commission for data protection in the EU.

“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. 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 added.

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