New policy will take at least a year to implement

For most internet users, the privacy and security of their online information and search history is an important thing for many reasons. Some users don’t want their search history stored on servers where it could be stolen or released to unauthorized parties.

Many search engines store the IP address information along with a search query for 18 months or more before deleting the data. Microsoft announced today that it would improve the privacy of searches by deleting search information after six months.

Microsoft wrote in a blog post, "[Microsoft will] delete the entire Internet Protocol address associated with search queries at six months rather than at 18 months."

The Wall Street Journal reports that the change in how long Microsoft stores search data is in response to negotiations with European regulators. The move is expected to pressure search firms like Google to follow suit.

Microsoft hopes that by deleting user search quires more frequently it can lure users concerned about privacy to use Bing rather than Google. Google still claims that it needs to keep search queries stored for up to nine months to improve search quality and fight fraud. The fraud in question is termed click fraud and is when users or companies click on ads repeatedly to run up the advertisers bill with no intention of buying.

Google released a statement saying, "Data from our search queries represents a crucial arm in our battle to protect the security of our services against hacks and fraud. It also represents a critical element allowing us to help users by innovating and improving the quality of our searches."

Yahoo is ahead of Microsoft and reduced the time it stores search queries to only three months in 2008. Microsoft reports that it will take a year to a year and a half to implement the changes to allow the deletion of queries every six months.

Quentin Archer, an attorney with Lovells LLP in London told Bloomberg, "It doesn’t do them [Microsoft] any good to be seen to ignore EU officials. Microsoft seems to be cooperating while trying to keep the competitive edge by telling people that Bing is safer than other search engines."

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft says it will put the new privacy system in place only after it's "technically secure and tested in every way."

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh

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