We should all be pleased that the five big search engines have now shown a commitment to reducing the length of time that they retain potentially sensitive data about their users. Microsoft and Yahoo! announced their intentions this week, which means that Microsoft and Google have publicly agreed to keep user data for no longer than 18 months, Yahoo! and AOL for 13 months and Ask.com is unveiling a new tool that allows users to block the retention of specific search terms and their computer’s IP address.
Does this suggest that for the serious privacy advocate there’s really only one search engine of choice? After all, ask.com appears to be going way beyond the other four and has prompted Microsoft to pledge similar functionality in its search engine by the end of the year. However, if you’re a privacy advocate who is also serious about search results then will it be enough to make you, as a Google user, switch engine?
For many, this is a great step forward but I am not sure that it is enough to encourage a sizeable volume of searchers away from Google (with its 75%+ share of the UK search market) and prompt the search leader to take similar steps.