Microsoft and Ask.com have jointly called for the internet industry to develop better safeguards for industry players to better protect their users’ search histories and other personal information.
The two companies, respectively the third and fourth largest search providers in the world, made the call amidst increased concerns about the amount of personal information that is stored, analysed and exploited by internet companies.
The move is being driven in particular by a recent call by the Article 29 Working Party, which advises the European Union on privacy issues, for an investigation into how long search engines store the personal information of their customers.
The fear amongst privacy advocates is that search engines that amass information about users’ online browsing histories may exploit the information without consent.
Both Microsoft and Ask.com have acknowledged that the search industry needs to better explain its policies and provide better control over their data.
Microsoft is expected today to introduce a number of privacy policies for its Windows Live search service.
Ask.com said it is offering users the ability to prevent the company collecting and storing personal data.
The world’s largest search engine Google, which is in the process of buying advertising giant Doubleclick, has made two important changes to its search policies in recent months.
In March Google decided that 18 months after a “search” takes place on Google that information would be anonymised.
And last week it said that “cookies”, or files that sit on hard drives to identify your computer to websites, will expire after two years.
By John Kennedy