REDMOND, Washington: Microsoft will reduce the amount of time it retains European online search data in response to pressure from a European Commission advisory committee - but  only if Google and Yahoo do the same.

Earlier this year, the Article 29 Working Party, comprising data protection commissioners from the Commission's 27 member states, advised that all search-related data should be made “untraceable” after six months.

In a letter sent to the panel, Microsoft said it would reduce the amount of time it retains the data from its MSN Live Search portal from eighteen months to six, but only if its main competitors followed suit.

According to John Vassallo, a lawyer representing the US-based IT giant: "We support the commissioners' recommendations but are asking them to ensure these are uniformly observed. Otherwise, to do so unilaterally would put us at a disadvantage." 

Google retains search data for nine months, and Yahoo for thirteen, and in separate statements the companies said their positions remain unchanged.

The three firms will present their cases to the Working Party in February 2009, which could then ask the Commission to formally intervene if it remains dissatisfied with their arrangements.

Data sourced from International Herald Tribune; additional content by WARC staff