Wikipedia Releases Search Data To Public But Pulls It After Privacy Concerns

Wikipedia announced they have decided to give away their search data to the public for free. Yea, they would just give away search data to anyone would wanted to download it. Shortly after they announced this, they decided to “temporarily taken down this data to make additional improvements to the anonymization protocol related to the search queries.”

My first reaction when I saw that Wikipedia was releasing this information was, privacy issue! Imagine how people use Wikipedia. They may search for family information, medical conditions, religious beliefs, political beliefs and so on. If you can match those search patterns to the same user (i.e. their IP address), you can technically back track who the searcher is and build a profile of the user and their beliefs and tastes. Great for marketers, but potentially horrible for the privacy of the searcher.

Back in 2006, AOL released this data and was blasted for doing so. In fact, the New York Times profiles one of those searchers, Searcher No. 4417749 to prove this point. Heck, they even made a movie around this leaked search data.

So when I heard Wikipedia is doing the same, I was a bit surprised. Why did they decide to release it? Well, they listed three reasons:

(1) it provides valuable feedback to our editor community, who can use it to detect topics of interest that are currently insufficiently covered. (2) we can improve our search index by benchmarking improvements against real queries. (3) we give outside researchers the opportunity to discover gems in the data.

The data includes:

  • Server hostname
  • Timestamp (UTC)
  • Wikimedia project
  • URL encoded search query
  • Total number of results
  • Lucene score of best match
  • Interwiki result
  • Namespace (coded as integer)
  • Namespace (human-readable)
  • Title of best matching article

Again, Wikipedia has pulled down the data until they can figure out how to better anonymize the data.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Features: Analysis | Legal: Privacy | Search Engines: Wikipedia | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn


Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  


Other ways to share:

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • Blue Hat Marketing

    This is really interesting and illustrates the paradox of information freedom -sometimes individual rights and privacy conflict with the need to share information and maintain transparency.

  • Pat Grady

    in Latin, that’s…. wikipedus coitus datum interuptus

  • Alan

    Releasing the data is a good idea. Imagine the keyword research you could do on that data :) However ip’s and anything else that can tie down a person does need to be removed!

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest


Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States


Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech

Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!



Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide