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Microsoft to delete Bing users' IP addresses after 6 months

By Owen Weldon     Jan 19, 2010 in Business
Microsoft announced that after six months, data collected on users who use the search engine Bing will be deleted, according to Microsoft.
Data collected on users who use Bing will be deleted after six months, Microsoft said. Microsoft said that they notified the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, which is a collection of the EU’s top officials on data protection and privacy issues, and told them that they were going to reduce the time it stores users’ IP addresses from 18 months to six months before they permanently delete the data.
User’s account information like e-mail or phone numbers are separated from non-personal data like what the user searched for, and that is how Bing currently takes search data and separates it. Microsoft will than delete IP addresses and other core cross session IDs but only after 18 months. The new policy will have IP addresses removed and deleted a lot quicker. Data would be removed in six months I instead of 18 month and that will create better privacy protection for the user. Microsoft said that that the rest of the process will be kept the same because they use the data to make searching better for people.
Microsoft said that the changes will take place in the next 12 to 18 months. Microsoft wants to please the European advisory group because the group has been unhappy and critical of how most search engines retain data on users for advertising purposes. The group issued a report back in April that said search engines are only allowed to retain European user data for six months and should treat IP addresses as person and private information. They also said that search engines based outside the EU must also comply with the rules. The panel asked major search engines Yahoo, Google and Microsoft to follow the rules as well. Google now only keeps data for nine months and Yahoo only holds onto data for three months.
The article 29 group’s members are the national data protection regulators from each EU country and only an advisory body at the EU level. The group does have the power to fine companies but they have not imposed any fines or sanctions over the search data retention. Sources say that Microsoft’s announcement tries to find balances when it comes to studying trends in searches and to make the quality of results and preserving consumer privacy. Microsoft said that in the future they will try to not run into problems with the EU.
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