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Report: Yahoo, Microsoft to reveal Web search privacy policies

Financial Times reports Yahoo, Microsoft to reveal Web search data retention policies at urging of European Union group.

The Financial Times is reporting that Yahoo and Microsoft will update their privacy polices within the next few weeks and publicly reveal how long they plan to keep data on consumer Web searches.

The action was prompted by the work of a group called the Article 29 Working Party, which advises the European Union on privacy policy and has also been in discussions with Google, the article says.

Google's proposed $3.1 billion purchase of online ad firm DoubleClick is being scrutinized by the European Commission following complaints from consumer and privacy groups there and in the U.S. that a merged company would give Google access to an unprecedented amount of online consumer data.

Several months ago, Google changed its data retention policies, saying it would anonymize the final eight bits of the IP address and cookie data after 18 to 24 months, unless legally required to retain it for longer. The information on specific searches will be retained indefinitely, but the partial anonymization will make it much more difficult to tie the searches to specific individuals or computers.

So far, neither Yahoo nor Microsoft have publicly detailed their data retention policies. A Yahoo representative did not return e-mails seeking comment on Friday. A Microsoft spokeswoman had this to say: "We can't confirm that. Microsoft doesn't have any information to share at this time."