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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