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June 21, 2007

EU expands search engine privacy probe beyond Google

Posted by David Hunter at 10:38 PM ET.

The European Union data privacy Working Party has decided to expand its probe of search engine privacy practices beyond Google to include other Web Search services, which would seem to mean at least Yahoo and Microsoft’s Live Search.

A European Union probe triggered by concerns over how long Google Inc. stores user information has widened to include all Internet search engines.

The EU’s panel of national data protection officers said it’s now concerned over the retention of data that the companies use to deliver more relevant search results and advertising. Some fear the data could be targeted by hackers and governments.

Microsoft Corp., which operates the third-largest search engine in the U.S. behind Google and Yahoo Inc., said it has not had a formal conversation with the Working Party.

“We recognize that online search is creating legitimate concerns about privacy and are actively engaged with data protection authorities around the world to ensure that our practices meet the highest standards when it comes to protecting privacy,” Peter Cullen, the company’s chief privacy strategist, said in an e-mailed statement.

It should be interesting since one of the selling points of Microsoft’s search advertising is better user targeting. In fact there’s a post today at the adCenter Blog extolling the virtues of targeting by age and gender:

We don’t have demographic data on every single searcher, which is why the percentage of impressions and clicks is estimated. The data we do have is reliable, collected from Windows Live ID profiles, and is statistically valid for extrapolation. It’s real data from real people who are viewing your ads in real time. (Note that all personally identifiable information is strictly guarded per our privacy policy.)

I’m sure the EU folks would love a detailed explanation of that.

Filed under Advertising, Coopetition, General Business, Google, Governmental Relations, Legal, Live Search, MSN, Microsoft, Privacy, Windows Live, Yahoo, adCenter

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One Response to “EU expands search engine privacy probe beyond Google”

  1. Microsoft jumps aboard the Web privacy train -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] As Brad Stone observes at the NY Times, “There’s nothing like a little regulatory scrutiny to get Internet companies talking about privacy.” With the EU, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the US Congress getting into the act there’s plenty of scrutiny and Microsoft today followed Google with an announcement to deflect it. [...]

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