John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

No More Bing Brother, Says Microsoft


Google has long claimed that the server log data it collects are a critical driver of innovation. Over the years, to appease privacy advocates, the company has tweaked its treatment of those data and the length of time it stores them. Google continues to collect IP addresses, though it makes them anonymous after nine months (it used to do so only after 18-24 months).

This may soon change. And not because of any initiative on Google’s (GOOG) part but because of one by Microsoft (MSFT).

Responding to Article 29 Working Party guidelines for protecting users’ personal data online, Microsoft this morning said its new search engine, Bing, will purge all the data it collects on users after six months. Not make the data anonymous, but purge.

“Today we sent a letter to the Article 29 Working Party notifying them of our intention to make a change to Bing’s data retention policy,” Bing Privacy Manager Reese Solberg wrote in a post to the Bing blog. “Specifically, we are reducing the amount of time we store IP addresses from searchers to 6 months. Currently we keep that information for 18 months before we delete it.”

Elaborating, the letter continues, “Generally, when Bing receives search data we do a few things: first, we take steps to separate your account information (such as email or phone number) from other information (what the query was, for example). Then, after 18 months we take the additional step of deleting the IP address and any other cross session IDs associated with the query.”

In conclusion, the letter describes Microsoft’s initiative succinctly: “Under the new policy, we will continue to take all the steps we applied previously–but now we will remove the IP address completely at 6 months, instead of 18 months.”

Microsoft’s move leaves Google in the uncomfortable position of being far less a friend to privacy than Microsoft. And hard as the company might argue in favor of storing user data, it will likely have to match Microsoft.

It’s difficult to claim that server log data are “a crucial arm in the battle to protect the security of our services against hacks and fraud” when a prominent rival is essentially claiming exactly the opposite.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald