Microsoft says it will make data collected from search queries anonymous, if rivals such as Google agree to do the same.

Guidelines from the European Commission's Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, state that search engines should not keep sensitive information such as IP addresses and information from tracking cookies, for more than six months, unless it has been made anonymous. However, the guidelines are not yet law and current European laws do not set a specific time limit for how long data can be retained.

Microsoft believes the industry should endorse the six-month standard. Microsoft's current policy involves retaining search data for 18 months before anonymising it. However, John Vassallo, vice president of EU affairs for Microsoft, said the company won't change its current policy, unless all in the industry agree to the standard.

Vassallo said Microsoft, which holds just two percent of the European search market, was a "latecomer" and that moving to the six-month standard on its own would result in "a very unlevel playing field".

In September, Google said it would anonymise IP addresses connected to specific searches that are recorded in its server logs after nine months. Google, which holds about 80 percent of the European search market, previously did that after 18 months. Yahoo anonymises data after 13 months.

Technology companies are due to hold talks with the working party early next year, Vassallo added.

Google revealed it would not immediately change its policy based on the guidelines but continues to work with data protection officials and privacy advocates, said Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel.

See also: Intel & Google staff revamp EU data protection laws

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