Microsoft (s msft), with a nod toward privacy protection, has announced that it will limit the amount of time that it stores IP addresses of web searchers using the Bing search engine to six months, down from 18. Peter Cullen, the company’s chief privacy strategist, announced the move in a blog post.
According to Cullen’s post, increased pressure from the European Union, which has been squaring off with Microsoft lately, may be behind the decision. The EU has specifically called for search engine providers to limit retention of personal data to six months or under:
“This change is the result of a number of factors including a continuing evaluation of our business needs, the current competitive landscape and our ongoing dialogue with privacy advocates, consumer groups, and regulators – including the Article 29 Working Party, the group of 27 European national data protection regulators charged with providing advice to the European Commission and other EU institutions on data protection.”
Cullen also supplied the following slide, which claims that Microsoft will de-identify personal information immediately when Bing is used, but will store the user’s IP address for six months:
Microsoft’s shift in policy follows similar moves from both Yahoo and Google. Yahoo (s yhoo) announced over a year ago that it would delete most personal data on users of its site after three months. Google (s goog) partially deletes IP addresses after nine months by deleting the last characters and numbers in the addresses, as noted on FutureOfPrivacy.org.