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Bing improves Web searcher privacy

Microsoft has said it will cut the length of time it stores IP addresses of Web searchers using its Bing search engine from 18 months to six. Google cut the time it retains searchers’ IP addresses to nine months in August 2008. However, Microsoft say that their initiative goes much further than Google’s, because Microsoft will delete all parts of the IP address after six months, while Google still retains part of the address after its self-imposed nine-month cut-off point. Both companies are responding to pressure from European data protection officials, who are concerned about the privacy implications of retaining IP addresses. While such addresses cannot positively identify the person sitting at a computer or accessing the Net via their phone, they can identify the computer or phone being used, and the hardware can often be linked to a person.

Google probes China-based staff

Google’s investigation of a cyberattack that rocked the company’s infrastructure in mid-December includes a probe of its staff in China. The U.S. search giant last week said it had uncovered a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on its infrastructure that resulted in some of its intellectual property being stolen. Google said the attack came from China, and targeted the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. While Google is considering possible employee involvement in the attack, it does not consider it an inside job, as 20 other companies, including Juniper and Adobe, were affected by similar intrusions originating from China.

India accuses China of hack attempts

An Indian official has reportedly said government offices including that of India’s National Security Advisor were targeted last month by hackers believed to be from China, but Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the allegation was baseless. Asked about Google’s allegation that the cyberattacks that hit the U.S. search giant were launched from China, Ma said Chinese companies were also often hit by cyberattacks, pointing to an attack last week on the website of search engine Baidu.com.

Apple tablet could feature e-books

Apple is in talks with HarperCollins Publishers about offering e-books for an upcoming Apple tablet device, according to a news report.

Details haven’t been finalized but the publisher is expected to offer the e-books with “added features” and to set their prices itself, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple would take a cut from the sales, the report said. Apple has invited reporters to a presentation in San Francisco on Jan. 27. The company is widely expected to use the event to unveil a much-hyped but still unconfirmed tablet-style device that could blend e-book, Web-surfing and other multimedia functions.

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