Microsoft offers to discard search data faster

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Some search engines store data for more than a yearMicrosoft has told European privacy advocates that it is willing to agree to hold on to web searchers’ records for a shorter period of time, as long as its competitors follow suit.

The internet giant has come under fire from privacy groups for its policy of holding people’s search data for 18 months. Yahoo keeps information for 13 months and Google for nine.

Data that is kept includes internet protocol addresses and tracking cookies which can potentially be traced back to individuals.

Search engines generally maintain that collecting this information helps them better serve their customers – however, privacy experts have suggested that too much information on people is made readily available.

In a letter to European Commission data protection officials, Microsoft offered to shorten that length of time to six months before making it untraceable.

However, it said it will not enforce the decision unless Yahoo and Google do the same. So far, both companies say they do not plan to make changes.

The clash represents some differences in the way internet privacy issues are viewed in different countries. The New York Times reports that German and Swiss government officials have also objected to Google’s Street View maps – which feature photos of homes without the permission of the owners.
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