Search Champs grilling MSN execs

MSN Vice President Christopher Payne is at the front of the room right now and is being grilled by the search champs about what they gave the government and when they gave it.

Some clarifications. No IP addresses or identifying information was given over. They also asked for more information in the beginning and MSN said no (Gary Flake said that) and renegotiated to make sure that no personal identifyable information was handed over.

I’ll track this conversation on blogs. I wish this were being recorded. It’s like being in a White House press conference.

The search champs has a whole session on this topic later today.

One of the attendees said that this is the first time that everyday people realized that search engines track a lot of things and that those things could be given over to governmental bodies. I didn’t catch his name, sorry.

Another attendee asked us to work with Google and Yahoo and other search engine companies to have a unified front and not to use this as a PR issue to play one company against the other.

Payne says that he realizes that they need to be far more transparent about these issues.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the update Robert! It’s nice to see the Search Champs giving them heck over this. I agree, the major searh providers should be banding together over this one and taking the issue to the government!

    jaseone – a “Search Champ” is made up of a group of randomly selected people who go to Redmond to discuss search technoligies and other search related things. You can apply to be a Search Champ when they announce the next one.

  2. Transparency surrounding what is recorded would be great. Like the use of cookies, EDUCATION about the use of this data (i.e. IP addresses) and the value added reasons for storing it (i.e. serving local content, GoggleMAps giving you distances and driving directions) needs to begin.

  3. Thanks for the update Robert! It’s nice to see the Search Champs giving them heck over this. I agree, the major searh providers should be banding together over this one and taking the issue to the government!

    jaseone – a “Search Champ” is made up of a group of randomly selected people who go to Redmond to discuss search technoligies and other search related things. You can apply to be a Search Champ when they announce the next one.

  4. Transparency surrounding what is recorded would be great. Like the use of cookies, EDUCATION about the use of this data (i.e. IP addresses) and the value added reasons for storing it (i.e. serving local content, GoggleMAps giving you distances and driving directions) needs to begin.

  5. So a randomly selected group of people are deemed champions in search engine technology? By that definition they sound more like a focus group with some Microsoft marketing spin turning them into “search champs”.

  6. So a randomly selected group of people are deemed champions in search engine technology? By that definition they sound more like a focus group with some Microsoft marketing spin turning them into “search champs”.

  7. John Battelle had a very clever post yesterday about it : allow every single internet user to opt-out from search engine databases. In other words, each search engine should provide a control panel from which all database records can be cleared out.

    The goal : trust, trust, trust.

  8. John Battelle had a very clever post yesterday about it : allow every single internet user to opt-out from search engine databases. In other words, each search engine should provide a control panel from which all database records can be cleared out.

    The goal : trust, trust, trust.

  9. Search Engines can and will disclose your searching practices

    Wake up people, the daydream is over. This isn’t APRAnet anymore!
    Search engines can, and will disclose your search habits – and you don’t have to have done anything illegal.  Google says it won’t (last week’s news), but …

  10. “No one company should use this as PR..”

    Interesting spin there. Seems to me Google stood up for its values — that is more than PR.

    It’s not unlike when you stood up for lesbian and gay rights at Microsoft. That wasn’t a PR stunt and I don’t think this stand by Google is either.

  11. “No one company should use this as PR..”

    Interesting spin there. Seems to me Google stood up for its values — that is more than PR.

    It’s not unlike when you stood up for lesbian and gay rights at Microsoft. That wasn’t a PR stunt and I don’t think this stand by Google is either.

  12. One thing that Google the, increasingly smaller (look at the China thing), non-evil part of Google is that some people may have search for personal data (phone numbers, name, and address. Is that a concern for the folks at MSN?

  13. One thing that Google the, increasingly smaller (look at the China thing), non-evil part of Google is that some people may have search for personal data (phone numbers, name, and address. Is that a concern for the folks at MSN?

  14. Robert,

    I appreciate that you’re posting about this. However, with Google getting more evil and MS becoming more open (in large part thanks to your example), I was becoming far more open to MS. But I’m glad that Google is using this as PR: It makes it clear that caring about your users’ privacy is a competitive advantage. And one that Google clearly beat MS and Y on: Enough so that there’s no way I’d ever consider using MSN again unless you made a clear public statement that Mr. Gates would sooner go to jail that comply with a subponea from the government.

    MS needs to make a strong public signal that you care about privacy; particularly if you want InfoCards to take off. Maybe MSR witholding any funding from Berkeley as long as Mr. Stark works there?

    Dan

  15. Robert,

    I appreciate that you’re posting about this. However, with Google getting more evil and MS becoming more open (in large part thanks to your example), I was becoming far more open to MS. But I’m glad that Google is using this as PR: It makes it clear that caring about your users’ privacy is a competitive advantage. And one that Google clearly beat MS and Y on: Enough so that there’s no way I’d ever consider using MSN again unless you made a clear public statement that Mr. Gates would sooner go to jail that comply with a subponea from the government.

    MS needs to make a strong public signal that you care about privacy; particularly if you want InfoCards to take off. Maybe MSR witholding any funding from Berkeley as long as Mr. Stark works there?

    Dan

  16. Dan,

    But Google isn’t consistent. They are obviously playing with some governments, but not with others. Check this out: http://tech.memeorandum.com/060125/p44#a060125p44

    Companies are also not static things. Today they might not be evil, but tomorrow?

    That’s why I’m pushing for transparency (and they are hearing that bigtime).

    During lunchtime the Search Champs went even further. They want a button to click that shows everything that’s being collected from their experience.

    That is even more tranparency than what I’m pushing for. But, now that I’ve heard that idea, I’m pushing even harder!

  17. Dan,

    But Google isn’t consistent. They are obviously playing with some governments, but not with others. Check this out: http://tech.memeorandum.com/060125/p44#a060125p44

    Companies are also not static things. Today they might not be evil, but tomorrow?

    That’s why I’m pushing for transparency (and they are hearing that bigtime).

    During lunchtime the Search Champs went even further. They want a button to click that shows everything that’s being collected from their experience.

    That is even more tranparency than what I’m pushing for. But, now that I’ve heard that idea, I’m pushing even harder!

  18. Google.cn is a different beast than Google.com, I don’t really see why Google providing a separate service that is approved by the Chinese government is such a big thing.

    Now if they started censoring Google.com then that would be a different story, the story here is about the Chinese government only allowing it’s citizens to access a censored version of Google, it isn’t about Google being evil, I think that evilness belongs with another entity involved in the story.

    The Google.cn issue and the one about complying with the US government’s subpoena are two completely different issues so please don’t try to muddy the waters by comparing the two.

  19. Google.cn is a different beast than Google.com, I don’t really see why Google providing a separate service that is approved by the Chinese government is such a big thing.

    Now if they started censoring Google.com then that would be a different story, the story here is about the Chinese government only allowing it’s citizens to access a censored version of Google, it isn’t about Google being evil, I think that evilness belongs with another entity involved in the story.

    The Google.cn issue and the one about complying with the US government’s subpoena are two completely different issues so please don’t try to muddy the waters by comparing the two.

  20. “Do not evil” – as long as you can make money. This is Google motto. In China – there is not much money involved – so they will do everything that government will ask. Goal for China is to make sure no new search engine will be born there.

    In USA – they can lose money – so they are willing to play games with government.

    Even more – once Google will be in trouble with income – shareholders will not care about “Do not evil” and will force Google to do everything to make money. And SEC will help them.

  21. “Do not evil” – as long as you can make money. This is Google motto. In China – there is not much money involved – so they will do everything that government will ask. Goal for China is to make sure no new search engine will be born there.

    In USA – they can lose money – so they are willing to play games with government.

    Even more – once Google will be in trouble with income – shareholders will not care about “Do not evil” and will force Google to do everything to make money. And SEC will help them.

  22. I don’t understand this “no IP / individual indentifiers was released” stance. So the government just knows that “jihad and nuclear” was queried 1000 times on Jan 7th? What good does that do anyone?

    Perhaps MSFT handed over information that allowed the government to see that “jihad” was queried for at 11:30AM and then “bomb” was queried for at 11:45 by the same person.

    But then what’s the government going to do with that?

    And what if the government asked GYM for the IPs / cookie information for people querying for those search terms. Will GYM give it to them?

  23. I don’t understand this “no IP / individual indentifiers was released” stance. So the government just knows that “jihad and nuclear” was queried 1000 times on Jan 7th? What good does that do anyone?

    Perhaps MSFT handed over information that allowed the government to see that “jihad” was queried for at 11:30AM and then “bomb” was queried for at 11:45 by the same person.

    But then what’s the government going to do with that?

    And what if the government asked GYM for the IPs / cookie information for people querying for those search terms. Will GYM give it to them?

  24. Thanks Robert–I agree on the China thing. Does MSN have an official policy on China? (If it’s better than Google’s, please do use it for PR advantage!)

  25. Thanks Robert–I agree on the China thing. Does MSN have an official policy on China? (If it’s better than Google’s, please do use it for PR advantage!)

  26. What I want to know is “why do you have personal information for me”?

    I don’t want you to have it. Stop storing it.

  27. What I want to know is “why do you have personal information for me”?

    I don’t want you to have it. Stop storing it.

  28. Oh dear lord, WHO CARES anymore.

    At least in the US, all I have to do is file the right request, and pretty much for the asking, I can get every bit of info the government has on you, including how much your mortgage is, etc. It’s a side effect of “Government in the Sunshine”.

    Considering that every packet you send has your IP and MAC address in it, if someone wants to track you bad enough, they will. You want anonymity, get off the public internet.

    oy

  29. Oh dear lord, WHO CARES anymore.

    At least in the US, all I have to do is file the right request, and pretty much for the asking, I can get every bit of info the government has on you, including how much your mortgage is, etc. It’s a side effect of “Government in the Sunshine”.

    Considering that every packet you send has your IP and MAC address in it, if someone wants to track you bad enough, they will. You want anonymity, get off the public internet.

    oy

  30. Scoble:

    Google is not being inconsistent. It is complying with Chinese law that is quite straightforward (no matter how much we might disagree with it).

    In the US, it is questioning a law that is ambiguous at best. But it is a nice attempt to spin Google taking a stand into a negative. Keep up the good work.

  31. Scoble:

    Google is not being inconsistent. It is complying with Chinese law that is quite straightforward (no matter how much we might disagree with it).

    In the US, it is questioning a law that is ambiguous at best. But it is a nice attempt to spin Google taking a stand into a negative. Keep up the good work.

  32. Oh and Scobleizer –

    What happened to the update on MS dropping Windows Media Player support for the Mac?

    It’d be interesting to hear MS’s thinking on that.

  33. Oh and Scobleizer –

    What happened to the update on MS dropping Windows Media Player support for the Mac?

    It’d be interesting to hear MS’s thinking on that.

  34. Everyone is tracking everything, period. Your search/browsing/buying habits are what pays the bandwidth and server costs of all of these “free” services like search, email, etc. I thought it was a generally well known fact. Ever notice how you log in to gmail…and your still logged in at google.com, same for yahoo, I’m assuming the same for msn. You didn’t really think that was for convienience, did you? And it also wouldn’t surprise me to find out that at least one of these giant indexing machines that happen to serve email as well….just happened to be indexing our emails. Ever notice the google ads next to your gmail?

  35. Everyone is tracking everything, period. Your search/browsing/buying habits are what pays the bandwidth and server costs of all of these “free” services like search, email, etc. I thought it was a generally well known fact. Ever notice how you log in to gmail…and your still logged in at google.com, same for yahoo, I’m assuming the same for msn. You didn’t really think that was for convienience, did you? And it also wouldn’t surprise me to find out that at least one of these giant indexing machines that happen to serve email as well….just happened to be indexing our emails. Ever notice the google ads next to your gmail?

  36. I would really, really like to hear what Kim Cameron has to say about all this and how it relates to Identity.

  37. I would really, really like to hear what Kim Cameron has to say about all this and how it relates to Identity.

  38. David: search champs has some academics on it, especially this year cause many librarians were invited, but it’s more accurate to say they invited influential bloggers. Most of the people I’ve met at search champs have really great blogs.

  39. David: search champs has some academics on it, especially this year cause many librarians were invited, but it’s more accurate to say they invited influential bloggers. Most of the people I’ve met at search champs have really great blogs.

  40. Heh, funny that a big PR Event becomes a PR CYA Event, MSN and Yahoo playing cards with Feds on a witchhunt, Google bending to Commies for a buck, attracting Congressional attention.

    It’s just that MSN/AOL/Yahoo so willing gave it up, without so much as a fight, when such will just be used to create another burdensome regluation. It’s not even good business-sense. But games like this are hard to win in the PR sense, stare down Feds on good principle, get accused of supporting child porn, but give them what they want willingly, become another tattle-tale East German Stasi; MSN choose the easy way out, ‘inoffizielle mitarbeiter’, indeed.

    They also asked for more information in the beginning and MSN said no (Gary Flake said that) and renegotiated

    Umm don’t try and spin this, unbelieveable. So now MSN is the hero, only giving the Feds half of what they want. And plus now, after the fact, MSN realizes it’s a mistake; pat on head, nice nice doggie, have a treat. Wheee. But let me guess, next time around, they will have to “realize” their mistake all over again. Come on, don’t be such a dupe. Microsoft has some of the most obvious spin-doctoring out there. The attempts to explain away the Xbox 360 supply-chain management problems, are near works of art. Microsoft makes great excuses, indeed some of the best in the industry.

    everyday people realized that search engines track a lot of things and that those things could be given over to governmental bodies.

    Yup. Search engines just playing the search game for free when they are but advertising and data-collection spyware and marketing engines. No surprise to me, so such thing as a free lunch, but good that it’s getting to Mom and Pop and Joe Public. If anything it all backfires, those you most have to worry about, will take measures of great sleath, and the great masses with be eternally spied upon.

  41. Heh, funny that a big PR Event becomes a PR CYA Event, MSN and Yahoo playing cards with Feds on a witchhunt, Google bending to Commies for a buck, attracting Congressional attention.

    It’s just that MSN/AOL/Yahoo so willing gave it up, without so much as a fight, when such will just be used to create another burdensome regluation. It’s not even good business-sense. But games like this are hard to win in the PR sense, stare down Feds on good principle, get accused of supporting child porn, but give them what they want willingly, become another tattle-tale East German Stasi; MSN choose the easy way out, ‘inoffizielle mitarbeiter’, indeed.

    They also asked for more information in the beginning and MSN said no (Gary Flake said that) and renegotiated

    Umm don’t try and spin this, unbelieveable. So now MSN is the hero, only giving the Feds half of what they want. And plus now, after the fact, MSN realizes it’s a mistake; pat on head, nice nice doggie, have a treat. Wheee. But let me guess, next time around, they will have to “realize” their mistake all over again. Come on, don’t be such a dupe. Microsoft has some of the most obvious spin-doctoring out there. The attempts to explain away the Xbox 360 supply-chain management problems, are near works of art. Microsoft makes great excuses, indeed some of the best in the industry.

    everyday people realized that search engines track a lot of things and that those things could be given over to governmental bodies.

    Yup. Search engines just playing the search game for free when they are but advertising and data-collection spyware and marketing engines. No surprise to me, so such thing as a free lunch, but good that it’s getting to Mom and Pop and Joe Public. If anything it all backfires, those you most have to worry about, will take measures of great sleath, and the great masses with be eternally spied upon.

  42. invited influential bloggers.

    Oh brother. Someone that has had a zillion papers published and really given back to the biz community, in terms of serious research, yet gets passed over as not a blogger? Well Search Champs isn’t anything but PR then, sorta a Mobius for MSN. Myopia is blindness.

  43. invited influential bloggers.

    Oh brother. Someone that has had a zillion papers published and really given back to the biz community, in terms of serious research, yet gets passed over as not a blogger? Well Search Champs isn’t anything but PR then, sorta a Mobius for MSN. Myopia is blindness.

  44. Trust and Privacy in Web 2.0: Microsoft, Search, and the DOJ

    I’m sitting here in the front row next to Robert Scoble at Microsoft Search Champs listening to a great talk by Microsoft Fellow Gary Flake about the Internet Singularity and the creation of Live Labs (a fascinating development which I’ll dedicate an

  45. Oh, and Scobleizer –

    I now realize why you can’t answer my question regarding Microsoft dropping Windows Media Player.

    Because it’s tied to Microsoft’s decision to enter the mobile music player market. That’s right folks — MS is going to take on the iPod with games as its differentiator. Namely, Live Arcade games that can be transferred to the device.

    My only questions is did you fly Elton John in or not?

  46. Oh, and Scobleizer –

    I now realize why you can’t answer my question regarding Microsoft dropping Windows Media Player.

    Because it’s tied to Microsoft’s decision to enter the mobile music player market. That’s right folks — MS is going to take on the iPod with games as its differentiator. Namely, Live Arcade games that can be transferred to the device.

    My only questions is did you fly Elton John in or not?

  47. Hello-
    My name is Captain B. A Capt in Iraq and was inquiring about producing my blog into a book. Man do I know you probably get a ton of these type of inquiries but I figured what the heck, I have RPGS shot at me, I haven’t seen my family for than 60 day in 2 years why not email these guys. Regardless if you’re about hit “delete”, please support our troops. Semper Fi, Capt B
    http://shepherdaway.blogspot.com/

  48. Hello-
    My name is Captain B. A Capt in Iraq and was inquiring about producing my blog into a book. Man do I know you probably get a ton of these type of inquiries but I figured what the heck, I have RPGS shot at me, I haven’t seen my family for than 60 day in 2 years why not email these guys. Regardless if you’re about hit “delete”, please support our troops. Semper Fi, Capt B
    http://shepherdaway.blogspot.com/

  49. Just to clear up some stupid points here:

    1. The “caving to Chinese censorship is EVIL!” line is a bit naive. Is it distasteful? Absolutely. But, look at how China got to the point where it’s at – further integration with the global market economy saw a further political liberalization within the country. This good and evil split is counter-productive. Global politics are just never that easy.

    2. The collection of records isn’t evil or illegal. Phone records? Credit records? Driving record? There’s tons of information available about you and everyone else out there. Unless you live in an information bubble, you’re already out there in the ether. Stop acting so surprised. It’s not the collection that’s the problem, it’s the legal means by which the government is trying to attain it – no matter what kind of records these were (let’s say anonymous phone numbers instead of web sites), it would be noxious for the government to try to drift-net that stuff without proper legal footing.

  50. Just to clear up some stupid points here:

    1. The “caving to Chinese censorship is EVIL!” line is a bit naive. Is it distasteful? Absolutely. But, look at how China got to the point where it’s at – further integration with the global market economy saw a further political liberalization within the country. This good and evil split is counter-productive. Global politics are just never that easy.

    2. The collection of records isn’t evil or illegal. Phone records? Credit records? Driving record? There’s tons of information available about you and everyone else out there. Unless you live in an information bubble, you’re already out there in the ether. Stop acting so surprised. It’s not the collection that’s the problem, it’s the legal means by which the government is trying to attain it – no matter what kind of records these were (let’s say anonymous phone numbers instead of web sites), it would be noxious for the government to try to drift-net that stuff without proper legal footing.

  51. [...] I attended the MSN Search Champs today….and what a day.  Given the recent news and concerns around the data MSN Search, Yahoo and AOL provided to the government, there was a session set up where the 57 bloggers / online experts at MSN Search Champ were invited to discuss the topic with senior MSN management (Senior VP Yusuf Mehdi and VP Chris Payne).As Robert Scoble wrote, MSN VP Chris Payne took the opportunity to confirm that no IP address or PII (Personally Identifiable Information) was provided.  It became apparent to me at least, that many (maybe the majority) of the MSN Search Champs didn't realize this prior to today's event. I think this misundertanding is one of the reasons there was such a deal and story made front page news in the media and in the blogosphere.And so conversation started.And it carried on into the night, even after the event was over – here's a podcast (mp3, 42 mins, 10mb) recorded tonight to discuss what we heard and learnt today. We had five Web 2.0 Workgroup members on the podcast: Fred Oliveira (post), Dion Hinchcliffe (post), Joshua Porter (post), and myself. We also had Chris Pirillo, Thomas Vander Wal of Infocloud the organizer of MSN's Search Champs, Brady Forrest. Michael Arrington, Richard MacManus and Live Side have some info on their first day at MSN Search Champs.download the podcast (mp3, 42 mins, 10mb)-Update: Thursday 26 2006: One point of clarification since the podcast was provided to me by Ramez Naam, director of program management at MSN Search: the DOJ did not ask MSN for PII specifically. They asked for MSN Search logs. MSN told them that they would not give them PII and they were fine with that. [...]