Microsoft is open to purging its search caches after six months

Of the three major search engine companies, Microsoft is the first to voice its willingness to meet a request by EC regulators to keep users' search data for just six months. But Microsoft will only do so if Google and Yahoo also comply.

Microsoft told European authorities on Monday that it's willing to retain search data for six months rather than the current 18, but only if Google and Yahoo also agree to keep search data for six months.

Last spring, an advisory panel of the European Commission requested search companies to start keeping search for six months only. Google currently keeps search data on hand for nine months, and Yahoo for 13 months.

In replying to the EC some nine months after the request was issued, Microsoft contended that keeping search data on hand gives a company a competitive advantage.

The lack of a "common standard" around retaining this data "creates competitive challenges," said Microsoft's John Vassallo, in an interview posted on Microsoft's press site. "Ultimately, the search engine that has access to the most data is able to improve the relevance of its search results, which provides more consumer value and gives the company a competitive advantage."

Of the three search companies, however, Microsoft would have the least to lose in meeting the Commission's request. Microsoft trails Google and Yahoo substantially in the US market, and its standing in the rankings is even lower in Europe, where it holds only 2% of the market.

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