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.