In a move to satisfy European privacy regulators, Microsoft today said it will erase Internet protocol (IP) addresses linked with search queries after six months. The change to the company's Bing search engine cuts the time the information is held from 18 months. The announcement was made in Brussels by John Vassallo, Microsoft's vice president of European Union affairs, according to Bloomberg.
The change addresses concerns of EU officials, who have been examining search engines for possible violations of European privacy laws. The EU told Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in October that the search giants must reduce the number of months they keep user search data. The European Commission's Article 29 report recommends a data-retention period of six months or less.
Yahoo has already cut the amount of time it stores IP addresses for searches to three months. Google keeps the data for nine months.
Competitive Advantage for Bing?
Microsoft has aggressively promoted Bing since launching the search engine last year, but the company's ad campaign has focused on Bing's purported advantages in accuracy and usability.
Will privacy become yet another weapon in Microsoft's marketing arsenal?
"I don't think Microsoft will play this as a competitive advantage over their competitors in the consumer market," says IDC analyst Hadley Reynolds, who covers the Web search market. "I don't see this length of time of maintaining the information as being a big deal.
"Particularly in the U.S., these privacy issues are not as cutting an issue for people who use the Web sites as they would be in Europe, where there are very different laws governing privacy of individuals' information," he says.
What matters most to users? "The competitive advantage between search services is based on the user experience--how successful consumers are with their queries," Reynolds adds.
Despite its best efforts, Bing can't seem to lure many consumers from Google Search, which continues to dominate the U.S. market.