In an effort to pre-empt regulation from the European Union regarding search data retention periods, Microsoft adopted a policy in early 2010 that all user search data would be eliminated after six months. At the time, I suggested Yahoo and Google weren't prepared to set similar policies. Someone at Yahoo didn't agree with my assessment.
In an email I received shortly thereafter, a Yahoo spokesperson trumpeted the company's search data-retention policy. It required user log data to be anonymized and IP addresses to be deleted after 90 days. The spokesperson said:
Yahoo's policy both dramatically reduces the time we hold personal data and increases the scope of log data covered ... Yahoo will anonymize user log data, including deletion of total IP address, after 90 days ...
Now, however, the company has revised its data retention policies yet again. Digital Trends reported Tuesday the company will now retain search data for 18 months. Writer Geoff Duncan explains:
Yahoo plans to begin extending the retention period this summer, and plans to notify customers before it does so. The retained search data will include things like user's IP addresses and cookies, which means the data can in many cases be linked to individual devices or people.
After 18 months, the company will anonymize the data so that it cannot be as easily linked to individual devices or people. Interestingly, Yahoo has indicated it may retain personal data beyond search information. Just what that additional data might be is as yet unclear.
Though critics say Yahoo is contributing to the erosion of consumer privacy, Yahoo says that the move is a necessary one to remain competitive with the likes of Microsoft and Google, according to ClickZ. Unfortunately, the timing may not be the best for the company considering the heightened focus on consumer privacy by consumers and regulators alike.