Washington: Search engine Yahoo! Inc will cut to three months the time it stores personal data gathered from web surfing, making its retention policy the shortest among peers, the company said on Wednesday.
The company will “anonymize” the computer addresses of its users within three months in most cases, from a prior standard of 13 months. It is reserving the right to keep data for up to six months if fraud or system security are involved.
Internet search companies have come under pressure from European and other data protection officials to do more to protect the privacy of users.
Earlier this year, industry leader Google Inc halved the amount of time it stores personal data to nine months. Microsoft Corp has said it will cut the time to six months if its rivals did the same.
“Google first went to 18 months and started this competition,” said Ari Schwartz, vice president at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group.
Yahoo’s pledge “is more significant because they are getting rid of some data after 90 days and they actually have an implementation plan to get this done,” he added.
The European Union has recommended that companies keep data no more than six months and urged the sector to adopt an industry-wide standard.
“This was our attempt to put a stake in the ground” on the issue, Yahoo vice president of policy and privacy chief Anne Toth said.
Internet search engines get their revenue by matching advertisements to searches, so advertisers can peg their ads to what is on the searcher’s mind.
Once the companies make commitments on data retention, they are enforceable under federal and state laws in the United States, Schwartz added.