• http://www.myspace.com/raaawb Rob Baker

    It stands to reason then that Bing could run the same “honeypot sting” and see if their own custom results turn up on Google.

  • http://david.ulevitch.com/ David Ulevitch

    Of course. Google is always hypocritical on these issues. Thanks for reporting on this.

  • http://mobilementalism.com Mike Evans

    I agree to a point. Certainly Google could be more transparent with what it does with the data it collects. But the difference is that Google is using data from a toolbar, which you must explicitly choose to install as an add on.

    With Microsoft, you’re using a web browser that in many cases is the default browser, and for some people, it’s what they think of as the only browser. Indeed, for most people, it’s simply an extension of Windows, which is what Microsoft has actively promoted for many years.

    For the browser – which for most people is just something that comes with the computer – to send your searches to Microsoft is a very different concept from a toolbar – which is something you’ve chosen to install from a search company – tracking the pages you’ve visited and sending that data to the company that developed the toolbar.

    It’s equivalent to the difference between your car sending your journey details back to the car’s manufacturer, and your sat-nav (which is an add-on you’ve chosen to install) sending the same data to the sat-nav company. You know why Garmin needs to know where you’re going and where you’ve been, but why does Ford?

  • http://thenoisychannel.com/ Daniel Tunkelang

    I think the parties on both sides are being sincere but are exhibiting selective perception. I’ve offered my own analysis at


    Full disclosure: I spent about a year at Google, but I’m not disclosing any confidential information, nor do I have a dog in this race. In fact, I have many friends at both companies.

  • Sean

    What about Chrome? Or Android? Have you looked at Google’s disclosure there?

  • http://blog.glennf.com Glenn Fleishman

    Also, Google doesn’t get extra points for using large red capital letters telling people to read the disclosure options, whether or not it’s currently in the installation process.

    You get extra points for explaining to people at the time at which they enable option precisely what will happen, what rights and information they give up, and how to reverse the option easily, or have their information removed from remote servers if they decide to change their mind. You do that at the time a choice is made (which appears to be the intent below the big red letters in the older installation).

  • http://borasky-research.net/smart-at-znmeb znmeb

    Toolbars are spyware. Don’t use them.

  • http://www.jeromyevans.com Jeromy Evans

    Great follow-up work Danny.
    This must be keeping you up at night!

  • http://besthubris.com/ BestHubris

    My first thought when I read Matt Cutts’ statement that IE doesn’t easily, clearly, and obviously disclose that data goes to Microsoft when using the toolbar or IE was, “Oh, and are Google’s disclosures any better?”

    Of course not. It is a given in business (not just the Internet) that a company can bury whatever it wants in pages of text and it counts as disclosure. For Cutts to call that out as a Microsoft “bad” is hypocritical.

    I don’t approve of copying, but until Google comes clear about EVERYTHING it collects or records (in a list) on ALL of its products, this is nothing more than sour grapes.

    If all of that spam filling up Google’s search results doesn’t get better soon, Microsoft’s Bing would be better off dropping any signals from Google and figure out how to add some ranking factors not based on something that all the SEO + content farms + spammers are not actively targeting.

  • techSage

    The post was a little shy on details about how Microsoft discloses what information it uses (i.e. no screenshots), but I appreciate the candor of the post. Here are some screenshots of IE8 (I am not affiliated with this site): http://blogs.chron.com/techblog/archives/2009/01/installing_internet_explorer_8_rc1_a_visual_t.html
    You can see that Microsoft appears to be doing at least what Google is. Google’s tactic almost seems to be to bore someone into clicking Yes just so they don’t have to read all of that text with a clunky scrollbar. Who knows? You can see though that IE8 has a highly visible, though not annoying, link to the privacy policy on every page of the welcome wizard and adds the additional explanation on the Suggested Sites page about using your browsing history.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    techSage, i looked at disclosures (with screenshots) about Internet Explorer in my first article:


    As I said above, I didn’t see that this was an issue.

    Daniel, that was a great piece.

    Sean, I didn’t look at either of those because the Google Toolbar is probably the biggest way Google is collecting data for use in its search results. We know they use it for site speed measurements. It’s unclear if the data is used in other ways. They’ve said they don’t use toolbar data to put URLs into Google’s results, but it could be used to help rank existing URLs (ways beyond how site speed is already used, for example).

  • http://www.stareclips.com/?twitter Bob Bigellow

    The interesting thing is… regardless of the disclaimers… Microsoft is the one actually doing more explicit actions from the data it collects than Google is.

  • http://www.everfluxx.com/ Everfluxx

    the Google Toolbar is probably the biggest way Google is collecting data for use in its search results. We know they use it for site speed measurements. It’s unclear if the data is used in other ways. They’ve said they don’t use toolbar data to put URLs into Google’s results, but it could be used to help rank existing URLs (ways beyond how site speed is already used, for example).

    You nailed it, Danny!

    At 10’30” of the Fairsight video you can hear Matt Cutts say: “We don’t use clicks on [sic] Bing’s users in Google’s rankings”.

    Well, that’s a very strong statement! I wonder if that applies to the processing of clickstream information that Google gathers via the Google Toolbar and through the analysis of log files that they acquire both directly and from partner ISPs.

  • http://thenoisychannel.com/ Daniel Tunkelang

    Danny: thanks for the kind words.

    I do hope that at least the result of all this sound and fury is more users understanding how search engines work. There are some really interesting questions being raised in this debate, especially if people can see past the competitive rivalry.

  • http://www.davidcoxon.com/blog davidcoxon

    Surely the point that google are making is not that the either they or microsoft are collecting data on which sites people are visiting after all one of the criteria for how highly a sight appears in the search rankings. What microsoft seem to be doing though (and i say this a huge microsoft fan) is not only using the visit data they are seeing from people running google searches but going one step further and collecting the search result that go with the search. whether that is my cross referencing the next page or reading it not from the search bar but also the page.

    The problem with this kind of behaviour is not that its ripping off the work another company has invested in carrying out, but that it duplicates bugs and it devalues both products. Quite often i will try bing if i can’t find what i’m looking for on google or vice versa, if they both have essentially the same results then its depriving me of a useful tool.

    or have i got that wrong?

  • Sean

    I have a feeling Matt Cutts got a little sandbagged by the Google Toolbar team.

    He clearly thought the disclaimer was more overt than it actually is, but sometime over the last three years, the toolbar team quietly dumbed down the text without him noticing (and since he probably never uses IE with the GToolbar).\\

    re: chrome and android — I agree that the data from them is probably minisucle, but the disclosure policies on those products is probably a significant indicator of how Google things about disclosure these days.

  • http://azzlsoft.com Rich Miles

    @davidcoxon It is difficult for me to assess the point that Google is trying to make. What I can tell you is that their tests show no evidence of Microsoft literally coping the search results off the page. What their tests do show is that Microsoft is collecting user data (which was known up front — and exploited for this ‘experiment’) and that Google’s sites are not exempt from that collection (which was not known upfront).

    It would be rather ridiculous for Microsoft to actually scrape Google’s results because the user intent is vastly more important. Google had a virtual monopoly on usage statistics. Microsoft has, to some extent, leveled the playing field with their own monopoly. Google is justifiably concerned, but Microsoft has done nothing wrong.

    Google was intellectually dishonest when they claimed Bing copied their search results. Most people would assume that Bing was copying Google’s actual ranking, when in fact, Google has not even remotely demonstrated that. They have, however, raised issues with Bing’s data collection policy which has called into question their own practices.