Feeds

Microsoft finally cuts Bing data retention time to six months

Anonymise this!

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Microsoft has finally slashed the amount of time it keeps some online search query data to just six months, over a year after it declared it would make the change if the likes of Google and Yahoo! agreed to play ball.

The company’s privacy chief Peter Cullen said late yesterday that Microsoft planned to implement the changes to its data retention policy over the next 12 to 18 months.

“We will delete the entire Internet Protocol address associated with search queries at six months rather than at 18 months,” he said.

“This new and significant step will be incorporated into our existing privacy practices, which already provide strong protections for Bing users.”

In December 2008 Microsoft said it supported the Article 29 Working Party’s guidelines for anonymisation on the web, before adding that such rules could only be adopted if they were introduced industry-wide.

The Article 29 Working Party is a group of European Union bureaucrats who have been pushing to get search engine firms to purge their user records after six months.

Under Microsoft’s previous policy, the software vendor claimed it took steps to “de-identify” the data by cutting it loose from account information that could uncover the person who performed the search in Bing.

However, the remaining data were left to languish online for 18 months before MS droids finally deleted the IP address, dumped the de-identified cookie ID and any other cross-session IDs associated with the query.

Cullen said Microsoft had no plans to change the fundamentals of that policy. However, the firm will start to delete IP addresses associated with Bing search queries after the data has been available online for six months.

All of which isn't a million miles away from Google’s current lukewarmish approach to anonymising an individual’s search data online.

Redmond will similarly leave the de-identified cookie and cross-session IDs intact, but after 18 months it claimed it will suck all the data out of the intertubes for good.

In September 2008 Google agreed to half the amount of time it retained IP addresses and user data garnered from search query logs.

At the time, the internet kingpin said it would anonymise IP addresses on its server logs after nine months “to address regulatory concerns to take another step to improve privacy for our users”.

But Mountain View later admitted to El Reg that it would only "change some of the bits" in the user IPs stored in its server logs, while leaving the all-important cookie data alone.

“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,” said Cullen, who echoed Google’s previous justification for keeping the data online.

“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 [sic] both goals.” ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
TorrentLocker unpicked: Crypto coding shocker defeats extortionists
Lousy XOR opens door into which victims can shove a foot
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
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.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
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.