Privacy and MSN Search

There’s been quite a frenzy of speculation over the past 24 hours regarding the request by the government for some data in relation to a child online protection lawsuit.  Obviously both privacy and child protection are both super important topics – so I’m glad this discussion is happening.

Some facts have been reported, but mostly I’ve seen a ton of speculation reported as facts.   I wanted to use this blog post to clarify some facts and to share with you what we are thinking here at MSN Search.

Let me start with this core principle statement: privacy of our customers is non-negotiable and something worth fighting to protect.

Now, on to the specifics.  

Over the summer we were subpoenaed by the DOJ regarding a lawsuit.  The subpoena requested that we produce data from our search service. We worked hard to scope the request to something that would be consistent with this principle.  The applicable parties to the case received this data, and  the parties agreed that the information specific to this case would remain confidential.  Specifically, we produced a random sample of pages from our index and some aggregated query logs that listed queries and how often they occurred.  Absolutely no personal data was involved.

With this data you:

        CAN see how frequently some query terms occurred.
        CANNOT look up an IP and see what they queried
        CANNOT look for users who queried for both “TERM A” and “TERM B”.

At MSN Search, we have strict guidelines in place to protect the privacy of our customers data, and I think you’ll agree that privacy was fully protected.  We tried to strike the right balance in a very sensitive matter.

Now that you have more information, you can be the judge.

Ken Moss
General Manager – MSN Web Search