Microsoft trumps Google on privacy

Google’s arch-rival, Mircrosoft, has just announced it will anonymize all private data it collects during online searches after six months if its competitors do the same thing.

As explained by PC World Microsoft has "endorsed European guidelines that suggest search engines should not keep sensitive information, ranging from IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to information from tracking cookies, beyond six months without heavily anonymizing the data."

It’s not clear if these guidelines will ultimately carry the force of law. Cynics also note that Google has 80 percent of the search market in Europe, while Microsoft has only 2 percent. Perhaps this is a bid for market share.

The European guidelines were released last April. In September Google cut its  data retention time from 18 months to nine months.  Microsoft remains at 18 months before anonymization, while Yahoo anonymizes data after 13 months.

Google told PC Week that it doesn’t have any change in its position. It cited Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, as saying that the company continues to work with data protection officials and privacy advocates.

That’s good, because Google will continue to hear from us. Anonymization after six months is better than after nine months, but if Google honors its "Don’t Be Evil" mantra, users’ personal data would not be stored at all in an identifiable manner — unless they chose to provide it.

Published by John M. Simpson

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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