Pretty Cuil Privacy

Cuil screenshot

New search engine Cuil has an interesting privacy policy (those links might not work right now due to the load). They’re apparently not going to track individual users’ searches at all, which, in comparison to Google’s behaviour, is quite a difference. As TechCrunch puts it:

User IP addresses are not recorded to their servers, they say, and cookies are not used to associate a computer with queries. The data is simply dumped as it is created. That means user data cannot be turned over to others, whether its via blind stupidity or lawsuits.

This strategy’s similar to an issue Scott Craver discussed a couple of years ago as part of his ‘privacy ceiling’ concept (I covered it a bit here at the time): effectively, whatever information you collect could become a liability for you at some point, so if you don’t need it, design the system so it simply doesn’t collect it in the first place.


  1. Alternatively, design the system such that it publishes all the information you wish to retain (making users aware of this).

    How many people would use a search engine that published their IP, cookie IDs, and search terms, and maintained open archives of such?

    And what if it allowed people to more clearly identify their searches, by attaching a name to them?

    One could imagine a Twitter-like feed that said something like “Fred Smith just searched for ‘Great Wall China'” and then detail any clicked links resulting.

  2. Dan

    That’d be a great way of gathering data on “what people are prepared to admit to looking for publicly” and seeing how it changed over time. Build all of that, and the resulting clickstreams, time spent on each page, and so on, into a giant model, and you’d have a massive real-time model of, well, lots of things. But apart from the public publishing, isn’t that what Google + Google Analytics + Gmail + etc does/could do anyway?

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