Microsoft plans to cut the amount of time it stores the IP addresses associated with search queries from 18 months to six months, in compliance with new European regulations and with a mind to putting pressure on its biggest rival.
Searchers on Bing already have their IP addresses immediately anonymized following a search query, but to comply with a new European Commission directive on Internet privacy the company will delete the IP addresses entirely after six months. Microsoft said it will roll out the new policy over the next 12 to 18 months, however.
Google anonymizes IP addresses after nine months, and deletes IP addresses after 18 months, which the company says is necessary to protect its search results and ads against click fraud and spam.
It's not clear whether Google intends to follow the guidelines established by the Article 29 Working Party, which led to Microsoft's decision. Bloomberg reported that Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer implied that no changes were immediately forthcoming, quoting him as saying "we're committed to using data to both improve our services and our security measures for our users and protect their privacy, and we remain convinced that our current logs retention policy represents a responsible balance." Google representatives did not immediately respond to requests for further details.
But Microsoft's move could open up a new competitive front for the search industry: privacy. The recent cyberattacks on Google and other companies have already sparked questions about just how safe the personal information stored by Google and other search companies is from those who could exploit it in criminal ways.