Bing Admits Using Customer Search Data, Says Google Pulled ‘Spy-Novelesque Stunt’

Bing has formally responded to Google’s charges that Bing is copying search results, accusing Google of trying a “spy-novelesque stunt” and defending the use of customer activity to influence Bing’s search results.

Harry Shum, Corporate VP at Bing, is speaking right now at the Bing/Big Think “Future of Search” event (see Danny Sullivan’s live coverage here), and his comments are echoed in a new blog post just published on Bing’s search blog.

We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm. A small piece of that is clickstream data we get from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users.

To be clear, we learn from all of our customers. What we saw in today’s story was a spy-novelesque stunt to generate extreme outliers in tail query ranking. It was a creative tactic by a competitor, and we’ll take it as a back-handed compliment. But it doesn’t accurately portray how we use opt-in customer data as one of many inputs to help improve our user experience.

In his comments today at the “Future of Search” event, Shum went a little further, saying

It’s not like we actually copy anything. It’s really about, we learn from the customers — who actually willingly opt-in to share their data with us. Just like Google does. Just like other search engines do. It’s where we actually learn from the customers, from what kind of queries they type — we have query logs — what kind of clicks they do. And let’s not forget that the reason search worked, the reason web worked, is really about collective intelligence.

Shum added later: “We have been very clear. We use the customer data to help improve the search experience.” And in the blog post, Shum suggests all search engines are, and should be, doing the same: “We all learn from our collective customers, and we all should.”

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Copygate | Google: Web Search | Microsoft: Bing


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Ralf Scharnetzki

    How fit attention leading global monopolys -powered by secret algorithms- together with the concepts of freedom and democracy in the information age?

  • Everfluxx

    So Google caught Bing red-handed, but waited to out them until Bing was in the middle of the media spotlight, so they could better spoil their competitor’s party? Evil geniuses.

  • Michael Martinez

    They didn’t catch Bing doing anything red-handed. Google misinterpreted what was going on and constructed a set of facts that fit its theory. We can say that they made an honest mistake and leave it at that (as far as their test goes).

    But using the Farsearch 2011 forum to attack Bing over nonsense — that was simply a bad miscalculation.

    Google needs to shut up about this and let it fade into the past quickly.

  • Winooski

    “But using the Farsearch 2011 forum to attack Bing over nonsense — that was simply a bad miscalculation.”

    Hah? Where is the reference to that in this or the original story at ?

  • Jennifer Nguyen

    >> >> “But using the Farsearch 2011 forum to attack Bing over nonsense — that was simply a bad miscalculation.”

    >> Hah? Where is the reference to that in this or the original story at ?

    “Michael Martinez” just made that up. Google caught them red handed cheating. You type in a bogus word and bing returned exactly what Google returned???? I mean – a made up bogus word that nobody would ever ever conceive in their lifetime??? And it returned *exactly* the same result as Google? Gee… what a heck of a coincidence? If that aint cheating, I don’t know what is…

  • Kyle Lelli


    I’m not sure you understand what the test was. Google “typed in a bogus word” in the Bing Toolbar which explicitly states that it tracks clickstream data.

    In other words, Google is angry that Bing is using clickstream data from Google searches to return relevant results.

    Hope this helps clear up some of your confusion.

  • Kyle Lelli

    Just in case, here is another recent SEL article in which Bing states that the above is the case.

  • Michael Martinez

    @jennifer “Google caught them red handed cheating ”

    Google didn’t catch Bing doing anything it hadn’t already publicly admitted doing long before Google noticed with fewer than 10 out of 100 queries what was going on.

    Let me put it this way: Bing threw that party a LONG time ago, and Google only showed up at the door with mock outrage this year.

    I should note that I incorrectly referred to Bing’s Farsight 2011 event as “Farsearch 2011″. Oh well.

  • Gagaforgoogle

    I’m confused. Could someone please explain if when Google did the experiment they would have had to use Explorer browser, or have the other MSFT “learn from our customer” tricks enabled? Otherwise, how could MSFTs response be valid? And, if so, I guess it shows a deficiency that MSFT will now correct in that it should spell check what it learns?

  • Michael Martinez

    @Gagaforgoogle — From Danny’s article: “When the experiment was ready, about 20 Google engineers were told to run the test queries from laptops at home, using Internet Explorer, with Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar both enabled.”

    What is so damning against Google’s case is this statement (from Danny): “Only a small number of the test searches produced this result, about 7 to 9 (depending on when exactly Google checked) out of the 100.”

    Let’s see Amit Singhal submit that kind of crap research to peer-reviewed journal and get it published.

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