Microsoft is joining Ask.com in offering Web surfers a way to use its search engines anonymously, and the two companies are now calling on the search and online advertising industry to develop a common set of privacy practices.

By year?s end, Microsoft will give users a way to search anonymously on its Microsoft Windows Live Web sites, and it will also implement a new data retention policy that after 18 months will scrub all search query data of any information that could be used to identify the searcher.

?We think that we as an industry ought to take a look at ways to further enhance privacy protections,? said Microsoft Chief Privacy Strategist Peter Cullen. ?We?re really trying to make sure that people always have the ability to have a trusted experience.?

These steps are similar to those taken by Ask.com last week and are part of an effort to create industry consensus on privacy practices, Cullen said.

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