Privacy is increasingly becoming a major factor for tech companies, governments and users alike. The European Union’s Genera Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy law went into effect in 2018. As of January 1, 2020, California implemented the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPR), the most comprehensive privacy law in the U.S. The increased regulation, not to mention increasing consumer demand, has created both challenges and opportunities for tech companies.
Verizon’s solution seems to be a search engine, powered by Bing, that caters toward privacy-conscious users. According to Verizon’s press release, “available for free today on desktop and mobile web at www.onesearch.com, OneSearch doesn’t track, store, or share personal or search data with advertisers, giving users greater control of their personal information in a search context. Businesses with an interest in security can partner with Verizon Media to integrate OneSearch into their privacy and security products, giving their customers another measure of control.”
The search engine has additional advanced features, such as temporary link sharing. When Advanced Privacy Mode is enabled, any links to search results will expire in one hour.
Users will still see ads when searching, but they will not be customized or based on the person’s search or browsing habits.
“To allow for a free search engine experience, OneSearch is an ad-supported platform. Ads will be contextual, based on factors like search keywords, not cookies or browsing history. For example, if someone searches for ‘flights to Paris,’ they may see ads for travel booking sites or airlines that travel to Paris.”
OneSearch does use some personal information. For example, a person’s IP address does provide general location information that can be used to provide location-specific results. Personal data is obfuscated and is never shared with search partners.
While it is always nice to see tech giants embrace privacy, it’s hard to see the benefits of OneSearch over DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo has a long-standing track record of providing private search. As CNET points out, the move is also interesting coming from Verizon Media, the branch of the telecommunications company “that runs an extensive ad network with more than 70,000 web publishers and apps as customers. While the search engine aims to attract users by turning on privacy features by default, OneSearch will also let Verizon Media hone its ad-matching powers on a search engine it owns. (Verizon also owns the Yahoo search engine.)”
It will be interesting to see what becomes of OneSearch and if it lives up to its promise of respecting people’s privacy. In the meantime, most users will probably be better off using DuckDuckGo.