Microsoft, Ask.com join call for online privacy

Both wanting to bolster online privacy, Microsoft and Internet search rival Ask.com are calling for a tech industry summit that will help ensure that that goal is achieved, an AFP report said.

The report said Microsoft and Ask were inviting rivals such as Google, Yahoo and America Online to join in a forum devoted to creating standards of privacy for users.

This move increased pressure on Google, which had been eyed warily by privacy advocates since it announced plans to buy online ad-targeting titan DoubleClick.

Microsoft is buying DoubleClick rival aQuantive.

'We have been thinking deeply about privacy related to search and online advertising and believe it is critical to evolve our privacy principles,' Microsoft chief privacy strategist Peter Cullen was quoted in the report as saying. 'For instance, on search data, anonymous should mean anonymous.'

Microsoft said data collected about use of its Windows Live online search service will be made anonymous 18 months after it is collected, according to the report. Microsoft will do that by removing bits of software code, referred to as 'cookies,' routinely installed on users' computers to store information about their website visits.

The report said computer IP numbers that act as addresses for individual machines will be erased and users will be able to refine data collected about their online activities, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's policy change echoes one made by Oakland, California-based Ask.com this month, the report said.

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