How we view Privacy at You.com
Privacy is important. We all want our privacy to be respected and don’t like it when our information is shared, or worse, when it is sold with or without our consent.
On the other hand, we live in an age where many aspects of our lives are mediated by digital platforms. We share content, look for information, watch movies, produce, consume, connect, work, and relax online. Many of us love the convenience of interacting with platforms that know our preferences and are implicitly personalized.
At You.com, we reflected deeply on the apparent tension between privacy and convenience. On one side of the privacy-convenience spectrum, you have ad-based platforms that massively invade your privacy but have incredible convenience and personalization. They use trackers to follow you across sites and profile you to bombard you with targeted ads on all of your devices. Most people don’t like that, and they assume it’s a necessary evil.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are tools to protect your anonymity online. These tools are designed to help you actively fight being tracked. Ad blockers, browser extensions, VPNs, and the TOR browser fall in this category.
The problem: zero data collection equals not listening to our users’ needs.
When deciding the architecture of You.com, we asked ourselves: “What data would be okay to collect, when to collect it, and for which purpose?”
Our values are trust, facts, and kindness. We looked for ways to balance privacy and convenience when using a search engine.
It would be easy to decide not to collect any information at all: simply turn off all logging and be done with it. This would however prevent us from offering services that our users love, like the ability to customize your search results. Also, as the young startup that we are, we would not be listening to feedback from our users; we would be flying completely blind, and this would not help us give our users what they want. At the same time, we understand that there are queries that users do not want anybody to know about.
The solution: you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to privacy.
You.com gives the decision power back to you. We have developed two complementary modes of operation: private mode and personal mode. They reinforce each other to give you the most action-oriented search engine on the planet.
More importantly, we decided to empower our users with the ability to decide and switch between these modes easily. If you’d like to search the web in a completely private and anonymous way, private mode allows you to do so. If you want a personalized search engine that returns the information in the way you want it with localized results (like “best thai restaurant near me”), personal mode is the way to go.
In this way, at every moment, you can decide where you would like to sit in the privacy-convenience spectrum.
Private mode: no data collection. Period.
When you search the web in private mode, we take a number of steps to respect your privacy:
- We don’t store your queries on our servers.
- We don’t record clicks or any other interaction with the site.
- We share the query with a search partner only to get you the results in that app, and they don’t where or from whom the query is coming from. It will come from our server’s IP address.
- We disable all apps that need your IP address or location, e.g., location-based apps (maps, Yelp, etc.).
Personal mode: we collect data to improve the product. We don’t share it.
In personal mode, we allow you to customize your experience:
- You can create a user profile and log in to our site so that your preferences are saved. This is not required to use the site, and you can search without creating a profile.
- You can select your preferred sources and modify the order in which apps appear in response to a query. In this way, you are in control of your search experience, not SEO professionals and advertisers.
- We collect data on your interactions with our site, and we use this information to improve our product. For example, we try to learn when you didn’t find what you were looking for, so that we may improve our models and give you better results in the future.
The best of both worlds
With these two modes, You.com offers a superior experience to its competitors. In private mode, we offer more privacy than other traditional search engines. Personal mode allows us to iterate and improve the product much faster.
Here’s a more technical comparison of the features offered by our two modes as well as DuckDuckGo (DDG) and Google (G). Along these important dimensions, you can see that our privacy is always better than Google and that our private mode is better than even DuckDuckGo.
Our CDN (Content Distribution Network)
We have taken a number of steps to make sure that they preserve privacy to the same degree as us.
- They do not store your queries on their logs.
- They redact the last part of your IP address.
- They disabled their analytics tracker.
- They shift all traffic to HTTPS for higher security.
You.com does not use any external tracker, such as Google Analytics. Our personal mode sets cookies to enable authentication and customization of your search profile. All these cookies are first-party cookies. They are not used to track you around the web and only enable You.com‘s customization features. We use no cookies in private mode.