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12/18/2008
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Yahoo Rivals Urged To Limit Personal Data Retention

House Internet chairman says Microsoft and Google should follow Yahoo's lead on privacy.

Microsoft and Google should adopt privacy guidelines similar to those unveiled by Yahoo this week, an influential lawmaker said.

"Yahoo voluntarily sets a new standard for privacy protection, a standard against which Microsoft, Google, and others will now be compared," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

"Privacy is a cornerstone of freedom and I applaud Yahoo's announcement [Tuesday] for recognizing that consumers deserve ample privacy protections in the digital era to ensure trust and freedom on the Internet," said Markey.

Yahoo said it would limit to 90 the number of days that it retains consumer data gathered from online searches. After that, the data will be "anonymized." Yahoo said the policy would apply not only to search data, but also to page views, page clicks, ad views, and ad clicks.

Yahoo said it would make exceptions to the policy to assist in fraud, security, and other legal investigations. Most Web companies maintain user data for a year or more.

Markey said other Internet players should follow Yahoo's lead.

"I have been pressing online companies for greater voluntary efforts to refrain from the massive, systematic gathering of information about individual consumer Web use and the long-term retention of such data in a form that can identify the Web habits, interests, searches, and purchases of individual Americans," Markey said.

"I urge other leading online companies to match or beat the commitments announced by Yahoo," said Markey.

Last week, Microsoft revealed plans to limit retention of Internet search data in Europe to six months, but said it would follow through on the offer only if other search companies, most notably Google, joined in step.

Microsoft's proposal came in response to a European Commission recommendation that Internet search providers anonymize user data after six months in order to protect privacy.

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