By Joel Hruska | Published: July 23, 2007 – 10:01AM CT
Henceforth, Microsoft will make all Windows Live Search data anonymous after 18 months “unless the company receives user consent for a longer time period,” according to the company. The policy will be retroactive and will apply to all Microsoft search portals worldwide. Customer search data will also be stored differently than data explicitly tied to people (e-mail addresses, phone numbers, etc.), and no correlation of the two data types will be possible. All cookie user identification data will also be removed. For users who opt for longer data retention (for the purposes of customization services), Microsoft promises to be completely transparent with how that data is stored and handled.
“As search and other online services progress, it’s important for our customers to be able to trust that their information is being used appropriately and in a way that provides value to them,” said Peter Cullen, chief privacy strategist at Microsoft. “We hope others in the industry will join us in developing and supporting principles that address these important issues. People should be able to search and surf online without having to navigate a complicated patchwork of privacy policies.”
Such movements from Microsoft and Google are more than just an act of oneupmanship—though there’s certainly an element of that at work—but are a broader response to consumer concerns and nasty allegations of antitrust behavior that’ve been flung around recently. With the Senate set to review Google’s proposed merger with DoubleClick and with Microsoft’s own recent purchase of aQuantive, its in the industry’s best interest to appear very concerned about personal privacy, even as market consolidations point towards more specific, focused, and, in a word, personalized advertising on the horizon.
It’s hard to see these developments as anything but positive, and we are expecting a similar announcement from Yahoo later this week.