Search company Yahoo has announced a change in their data retention policy that is sure to hit the radar of many privacy advocates.
The company says that it will extend the amount of time it holds on to user search records to 18 months. Currently, the data is only held for 90 days before it is made anonymous.
From the Yahoo Policy Blog:
Today, Yahoo! is making an announcement of our intention to change our log file data retention policy to meet the needs of our consumers for personalization and relevance, while living up to their expectations of trust.
Over the last 3 years, the way we and other companies offer services online and the way consumers experience the Internet has changed dramatically. So, we will keep our log file data longer than we have been – offering consumers a more robust individualized experience – while we continue our innovation in the areas of transparency and choice to protect privacy. We believe it’s a move forward for Yahoo! and our users.
Yahoo is only announcing a change to how long they retain search data right now, but say that they are also evaluating how long other types of data should be kept:
We will hold raw search log files for 18 months and we will be closely examining what the right policy and time frame should be for other log file data. In announcing this change, we have gone back to the drawing board to ensure that our policies will support the innovative products we want to deliver for our consumers.
Of course, data retention serves multiple purposes for search engines. By recording statistics on search queries, pages clicks and ad clicks, search engines can better personalize search data as well as provide better targeting for online ads.
This announcement comes just a few days after big news regarding consumer privacy. Apple was the latest to roll out Do Not Track features on the test version of its latest browser. There is also mounting disagreement on whether a new comprehensive internet privacy bill proposed by Senators John Kerry and John McCain will do more harm than good for web development.
When is this extended data retention set to begin? Apparently this summer, after a period of notifications.
In the next 4-6 weeks we will begin rolling out notifications across Yahoo! to ensure that we have given clear and understandable notice to our consumers of this change in our policy. Thirty days after we have completed these notifications, we will put the new policy into effect. We expect this will occur sometime in mid-to-late July.