Is Privacy That Cuil?

Search engines are no stranger to questions of privacy. They range from the petty (location of privacy policies), to the questionable (storage of IP addresses), to the disastrous (exposure of personal searches). Most of the concerns stem from the massive amounts of data gathered by the companies from users, much of it personally identifiable. In response, we've noted how search firms are competing over clarity and accuracy of their privacy policies; even created an opt-in anonymity option late last year. That didn't seem to have much of an impact, so it's not clear if people really care all that much about their privacy. Well, one new startup is betting otherwise.

Cuil, a newly unveiled search engine, takes this focus on privacy to an entirely new level by declaring that it does "not collect any personally identifiable information, period." No IP addresses will be collected, logs created or cookies retained. On the one hand, Cuil is sidestepping regulatory hurdles and privacy headaches. But, more questionable is its ability to compete with the incumbents who use vast databases of search histories to fine-tune future results. And, based on initial reports, they are having serious difficulty delivering results at all, as service is intermittent. Although it claims to have dramatically increased the efficiency of crawling the web and present search results in a new manner, does that really matter? People looking at search results don't seem to care that much about crawling efficiency (so far, Google is "good enough") and so far there's been little indication that "privacy" is a real catalyst for switching search engines. And, with many believing personalization being the next big leap in search technology, Cuil has already cut itself out of that market with its privacy settings. So on what factor will Cuil really be able to compete?

Kevin Donovan is an expert at the Techdirt Insight Community. To get insight and analysis from Kevin Donovan and other experts on challenges your company faces, click here.

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