Startup #80 – Private Search

uncle-sam blindfoldSearch privacy has been a hot topic on the Internet lately.  As you may or may not know, every time you use a search engine, the system is quietly recording details such as the search query you enter and the links you click on.  This data is stored on massive servers and used to fine tune the search engine to deliver more relevant results (and ads!)  Google stores this data for 2 years, while Ask and Microsoft both recently announced they would be deleting the data after 18 months. 

And, of course, even if a company says they are deleting/anonymizing data, who’s to say what they’re really doing?  There’s a small but very vocal group of Internet users that are asking these and other tough questions.  Are my Internet searches really private?  Is the government tapping my phone?  Is Gordon Lightfoot creeping around my back stair? 

My idea is a search interface that focuses exclusively on privacy.  The  actual engine itself could still be powered by an existing company, but system would take steps such as stripping out the user’s IP address before pinging the search engine for results, sending all clicked links through a redirection filter to keep the engine from tracking clicked links, and using AJAX to prevent your browser from saving your search history (i.e.

Context-sensitive ads would be filtered out in the name of privacy, but money could still be made through static ads promoting products targeted to this specific audience: security systems, anti-wire tapping devices, tin foil, etc… 

I have a new blogging gig!  I’ve been working with some of the guys who do online evangelism at Microsoft and one of them invited me to guest post on his blog at  Stop on over and say hi if you get a chance.


3 responses to “Startup #80 – Private Search

  1. Forget the ads – I don’t know how TOS for different engines work, but you could do it one of two ways:

    1. Make it a software download that the user buys. Installed on the computer, it does what you are describing (sends clicks through a redirection filter, blocks ads, etc.)

    2. Since the engines won’t like #1, perhaps build a “pay to use” search engine that doesn’t collect data. Granted, it would be hard to make a good SE from scratch without tracking, but I think a lot of people would gladly pay a nominal fee (say, $20 a year) to use a search engine that is based entirely on the notion that it doesn’t track user behavior.

  2. I like it. Building a search engine from scratch is some serious bidness, tho. Would be interesting to see what type of privacy policy something like Amazon’s A9 engine would have. Since they’re not really leveraging it for targeting advertising purposes, they might be more liberal than some of the big dogs.

  3. Check it out, I love Mashable:

    Looks like Ask has the best privacy policy of the Big 5, but they didn’t include A9…

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