Microsoft Corp. said on Sunday the software maker was taking new steps to protect consumer privacy in the areas of Web search and online advertising and called on the Internet industry to support it.
Microsoft said it was responding to public concern over the recent consolidation of the online ad industry as well as stepped-up interest from government regulators in its call for a comprehensive rather than piecemeal approach to privacy.
"We think it's time for an industrywide dialogue," Peter Cullen, Microsoft's chief privacy officer, said in an interview. "The current patchwork of protections and how companies explain them is really confusing to consumers."
Specifically, Microsoft said it would make all Web search query data anonymous after 18 months on its "Live Search" service, unless it receives user consent to store it longer. The policy changes are retroactive and worldwide, it said.