A call for industry standards for data anonymization

As part of Microsoft’s commitment to protecting consumers’ privacy in the operation of Live Search, we’re announcing support today for the Article 29 Working Party’s guidelines for search anonymization. These guidelines call for a common industry standard for the timing and methods for anonymizing search query data.

Microsoft Chief Privacy Strategist Peter Cullen provides an overview of the importance of industry-wide standards for protecting user privacy on the Data Privacy Imperative blog:

[I]t is imperative that all search companies adopt the same standard to better protect people’s privacy. We agree with the Article 29 Working Party’s call for a common industry standard for search data anonymization methods and timeframes to help protect people’s privacy. We’ve evaluated the multiple uses of search data and believe that we can, in time, move to a six month timeframe while retaining our strong method of anonymization.

However, we don’t believe that Microsoft moving alone will offer the level of consumer protection desired by the Working Party. While we’re certainly working to grow our market share, today Microsoft has only 2% of the search market in Europe and a small share globally. We can’t do it alone — all search companies must embrace high privacy standards to provide greater protection for European consumers.

Peter also explains Microsoft’s support for improving anonymization methods for data:

Our approach is based on the conviction that method is even more important than timeframe when it comes to effective anonymization of search data. We support the Working Party’s call for a strong anonymization method as a key part of its opinion and in response to recent announcements from other companies. Our current policy is to delete the entirety of the IP address — not just a single octet, as others do — as well as all other cross-session identifiers (such as persistent cookie IDs).

For more information, see Microsoft supports strong industry search data anonymization standards.

Reese Solberg, Privacy Manager, Live Search

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17 comments
  1. Anonymous

    In the EU you have an "industry standard" (sometimes quaintly referred to as "the law").

    EU law says personal data should be kept for no more than 6 months. How search engines haven’t been prosecuted yet is beyond me, but don’t expect the EU’s patience to last forever.

  2. Anonymous

    That said, it is good to see Microsoft finally aiming to obey the law of the countries they operate in, and I hope that others follow suit … but if they don’t, the EU will eventually make them.

    The method of deleting search queries is also to be welcomed, although I don’t see it clearing all potential privacy issues – the queries themselves, that is, searches linked to certain other identifiers (addresses, social security numbers, names) could potentially be privacy problems on their own, although I accept that these are a much more difficult level of difficulty to filter and in general one query not linked to others is of a lower level of concern.

  3. Anonymous

    So I didn’t know where else to put this, so I’m putting it here.

    I just noticed today that Live Search Cashback no longer works with Google’s Chrome browser. I had not tried it in Firefox, but found that it doesn’t work there either. The cashback feature was working this morning and then I was no longer ‘authorized’ to use it.

    Good job Live Dev Team. I was looking for a reason to go back to fatwallet.com

  4. Anonymous

    That said, it is good to see Microsoft finally aiming to obey the law of the countries they operate in, and I hope that others follow suit … but if they don’t, the EU will eventually make them.

  5. Anonymous

    It’s good to see that user privacy is getting the attention it deserves. Let’s hope the other search engines follow suit.

  6. Anonymous

    I think MS Live anonymized the fricken’ Live.com cashback.  That is my only guess aside form calling them out as lying lazy bastar_ds.

  7. Anonymous

    What happend to the ebay cashback!?

  8. Anonymous

    Is anyone paying attention to the Live.com Cash Back issues anymore? Has that thread been archived and the issues pushed under the carpet? There are still many people with cash back issues related to the HP 40% and Circuit City 20% cash back fiasco, myself included.

    Whoever is in charge of Live.com needs to take this problem seriously, because what you’re running is a fraud.

  9. Anonymous

    Smells like a doozy of a class action lawsuit in the near future.

  10. Anonymous

    This is a great resource page – it’s certainly going in my bookmarks!

  11. Anonymous

    Hi

    I also have been having problems with the Live.com Cashback program.  I have been waiting now for 5 months and still not received the Cashback.  Some how my live.com account was deleted and their is no way to log into that account and click the Cashback icon so Microsoft can deposit the money into my Paypal account.  I even have all the original emails Live.com sent me and the Ebay files that show as proof I used the Cashback program.  If anyone knows a telephone number I can call I would appreciate.  Thanks

  12. Anonymous

    For all cashback inquiries please email cashbk@microsoft.com with your order number and email address.

  13. Anonymous

    Thank you for your very infomative sites!

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