Microsoft cuts search data retention to six months

search glass

Microsoft has made good on its promise to drop IP addresses from search data after six months, meeting the pleas of privacy advocates.

Microsoft previously promised to cut its data retention time, but only if its rivals also did. Now, it's decided to go ahead with the move without Google, which holds IP addresses of searches for nine months. Yahoo holds such data for just three months.

Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy strategist, said in a blog post that it was an "important change."

"We will delete the entire Internet Protocol address associated with search queries at six months rather than at 18 months," he explained.

"Under our current policy, as soon as Microsoft receives a Bing search query we take steps to de-identify the data by separating it from account information that could identify the person who performed the search," he added.

Now, the IP address, "de-identified cookie" and other session identification will be deleted after six months.

The change will roll out across Bing over the next 12 to 18 months, Cullen noted.

Cullen credited the Article 29 Working Party with the change. The group is made up of European data protection regulators which advise the European Commission on data protection. The Working Party has long called for Google to cut its retention to six months.

But Cullen also said the change is because of the "current competitive landscape," suggesting Bing is trying to better Google on the issue.