Blog Post

Microsoft’s Bing To Cut Time It Keeps User Search Data; Will Google Follow Suit?

Under pressure from European regulators, Microsoft’s Bing is finally cutting the amount of time it stores some user search data. The company says it will now store user IP addresses for six months, instead of 18. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) had initially said more than a year ago that it would cut the amount of time it kept identifiable search data to six months — but only if Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) followed suit, saying “not having a common standard … creates competitive challenges.”

That grandstanding worked somewhat. Since that announcement, Yahoo has said it would “anonymize” search data after three months. Google, however, has continued to keep IP data for nine months and it will be interesting to see how that company will now react.

(An aside: There’s much debate about what exactly “anonymizing” user search data means; Microsoft, for instance, says it will delete the full IP address of users after the specified period, while Yahoo deletes only the final portion of a user’s IP address.)

Much of the movement to cut the amount of time that search companies keep user data is being driven by the European Commission, which asked search companies almost two years ago to keep identifying search data for a maximum of six months.