Bing search history: The power is yours

My name is Sree, and I joined the Bing team just over a year ago after graduating from University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Since then, my work has been focused on Bing’s history features, and it has been a wild ride.

I remember when my manager first pulled me into this project; he explained the vision that trust and respect for privacy must be inherent in the features we develop, giving users the control over their information and doing it in a very transparent way. Embedded in this concept is the idea of Bing working together with you in a joint effort to create a better experience. Since then, my team has experimented with new features to understand how people search, what features work (and what don’t), and how we can best enable people to make decisions using Bing. We then built the foundation of Bing history with the intent to improve your ability to quickly complete your search related tasks by remembering your past actions and to help get you back to your previously called on information.

What does all this mean for you?

I think about this in terms of the searches that I did when I was thinking of moving to the Seattle area. I began at a search engine, visited a few sites to learn more about the city, does it really rain 9 months a year? Where should I live? Should I rent or buy? Are there any good places to ski? While I usually tried to block out some time in my schedule to do this research, I often found myself interrupted. An hour (and sometimes a few days) later, I went back to the search engine to pick up where I left off, entering some of the same queries I conducted earlier in my research. Now, with Bing history, I wouldn’t have to remember or repeat all the same searches. Bing history gives you easy access to your recent queries from the Bing home page, search results page, and a history page that automatically organizes your search history chronologically.

Below is an example of a recent shopping experience I had online:


image: Recent search history w/ “see all” “turn off” and “clear all    


image: Both recent and frequent search history on Bing Home page w/controls


image: Your history page with granular controls

We understand that search history can be very personal, which is why my team has focused on developing a service where we’ve tried to build privacy and respect for your search history into the overall experience and not as an afterthought. By focusing on transparency, user control and usability, we believe we have the right approach in place to do that.

Here’s what we offer:

· Off/On switch:  It seems pretty simple, but providing you with tools to make choices is central to what we are building.  With one click, you can choose to turn history on or off directly on the search results page or, if you’re returning, on the homepage. About to perform a search that you don’t want to remember as part of your history? Just click Turn off and new searches are no longer remembered.  Want to get back to building your search history? You can just as easily turn it back on. Your on/off state will be maintained indefinitely, as long as you don’t clear your browser cookies.

· Transparency:  Click See all to get a complete view of the history data that Bing is storing for you. For this release, you’ll find all queries you make using our web search and the sites you click associated with that query. We’ll be checking customer feedback to see what additional information might make search history more useful, and how to better expose it to our customers.

· Control: Too many systems provide us with choice, but little control.  We’ve created Bing Search history with multiple layers of control.  You can remove your entire search history right on the search results page or on the homepage (just click Clear all). For finer-grained control, you can delete individual queries or sites from your history by clicking See all and then removing individual items from your history. You can also clear your entire search history directly from that page. Once you delete an item, it’s gone – it won’t appear in search history again.

Currently, your search history is available for four weeks. We’ll actively monitor feedback and look at other ways to evaluate the optimal duration for enabling you to save your search history. Please note that removing your history removes it from the Search History service and prevents that history from being displayed on the site, but it does not delete information from our standard search logs. These logs are used to operate and improve our products and services, and are retained and anonymized as described in the Bing Supplement to the Microsoft Online Privacy Statement. We store the searches you make separately from any account information that directly identifies you, such as your email address or phone number. For more information, see Microsoft Online Privacy Statement.

While we’re delighted to get this initial set of features out the door and into your hands, we’re even more excited about the opportunities that lie ahead. It’s our hope to make it easier and easier for you to accomplish your tasks, while enabling you to make quicker and better decisions. We know that as the internet evolves so will your needs and wants, so please stay tuned for more discussion and announcements, and please let us know what you think.

Remember the power is yours with a flip of the switch.

-Sree Kamireddy – Bing Program Manager and Privacy Champ