Feeds

Microsoft and Yahoo! trumpet anti-Google privacy policies

Just like Ask.com

Security for virtualized datacentres

Unable to keep up with Google's market share, the other big search engines are determined to top its privacy policies.

Last week, Ask.com announced new software that keeps web searches completely anonymous - a first among major search engines - and now Microsoft and Yahoo! have unveiled their own brand-spanking-new privacy principles.

At the same time, Ask and Microsoft are calling on the entire web search and online ad industries to adopt a new set of privacy standards. "We think it's time for an industry-wide dialogue," Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy officer, told Reuters. "The current patchwork of protections and how companies explain them is really confusing to consumers."

Clearly, Ask, Microsoft, and Yahoo! are hoping to take advantage of the recent furor over Google's privacy principles. In ranking the practices of the big name web companies, watch dog Privacy International put Google at the very bottom of the list, and after multiple complaints from privacy advocates, the Federal Trade Commission continues to investigate Google's acquisition of online ad network DoubleClick. It's no coincidence that Microsoft led the call for this FTC probe, citing anti-trust issues as well as privacy concerns.

Over the past month, Google has made its own privacy concessions: The company plans to make user searches anonymous once they've been sitting around for 18 months, and it's introducing new web cookies that expire if users don't return to the site for two years. But the cookie move means close to nothing, and with their latest announcements, Ask, Microsoft, and Yahoo! have made sure they've gone a few steps further than the world's most popular search engine.

Like Google, Microsoft says it will make search data anonymous after 18 months - removing cookie IDs, IP addresses, and other identifiers that tie searches to specific machines. But unlike its Mountain View rival, Redmond has made the move retroactive. Plus, the company plans to introduce Ask-like software on its Live Search service that lets users keep their queries anonymous from the get-go.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! has said it will make its search data anonymous after only 13 months. The privacy race is on.

The other search race isn't much of a race. According to the latest numbers from research firm comScore, Google leads the search market with a 49.5 per cent share. Microsoft is down at 13.2 percent, Ask at 5 per cent, and Yahoo! in the middle at 25.1 per cent.

Isn't Microsoft awaiting approval for its own massive online ad deal? Yes, it is. That would be its proposed $6bn acquisition of aQuantive, a direct DoubleClick rival. But Microsoft has said it's committed to privacy in this market as well. Once it begins serving ads to a network of third-party web sites, the company explains, it won't track user behavior across this network - provided the user opts out.

At the same time, Redmond is joining the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), the coalition of online ad companies dedicated to protecting end-user privacy. DoubleClick is also an NAI member, but that's not the message Microsoft is hoping to deliver.

Bootnote

Speaking of the fight against search engine data collection, Reg reader "The Cube" points the way to a FireFox extension called Track Me Not. Periodically tossing random queries at search sites, it uses massive amounts of useless noise to cut down on their ability to build reliable user profiles. Unless the millions of people start using it, it's little more than a parlor game, but it's great way to thumb your nose at Google. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Not appy with your Chromebook? Well now it can run Android apps
Google offers beta of tricky OS-inside-OS tech
Keep that consumer browser tat away from our software says Oracle
Big Red decides it will only support Firefox's Extended Support Releases
Greater dev access to iOS 8 will put us AT RISK from HACKERS
Knocking holes in Apple's walled garden could backfire, says securo-chap
WordPress 4.0 is here, complete with one-click upgrade process
Don't relax yet, sysadmins, there's still a chance for some big messes here
NHS grows a NoSQL backbone and rips out its Oracle Spine
Open source? In the government? Ha ha! What, wait ...?
Google extends app refund window to two hours
You now have 120 minutes to finish that game instead of 15
Intel: Hey, enterprises, drop everything and DO HADOOP
Big Data analytics projected to run on more servers than any other app
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.