Ex-Google Employees Build New Search Engine

Ex-Google Employees Build New Search Engine

You may have read about the social media platform built for good recently; well, how do you feel about a search engine created for privacy?

Sure, you have the likes of DuckDuckGo that offers additional privacy protections, and Mozilla Firefox, which has built-in cookie jars to prevent third parties from sharing your information, but this particular search engine is offering something that no other platform does.

Neeva is dedicated and extremely strict about operating its platform without ads:

“Search is the gateway to the world’s information, and with Neeva, we want to help you experience the Internet in a new way—free of distractions, prying eyes and frustration.”

The brand wants its users to see search results that aren’t dictated by advertisers.

Built And Run By Ex-Googlers

Neeva is founded by two former Google employees:

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Sridhar Ramaswamy, CEO of Neeva, worked at Google for 15 years, where he helped to build, scale and run the tech giant’s ad division.

Vivek Raghunathan was Google’s VP of Monetization at YouTube and worked at Google just shy of twelve years.

Clearly this duo has a lot of experience and are putting it to use in providing a new search engine.

And they aren’t the only ex-Googlers on the team:

Udi Manber has joined the team. His career includes working at Yahoo, Amazon, and Google.

Margo Georgiadis held the position of Google’s VP of Global Sales Operations and was the tech giant’s President of the Americas.

Darin Fisher was previously VP of Engineering at Google.

Neeva is based in Mountain View, three miles from Google’s headquarters:

 

Distance between Google and Neeva

How Does Neeva Work?

Traditionally, search engines are powered by advertising; that’s how these platforms remain free.

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So, if Neeva has ditched the ads, how is the search engine made available?

The platform will operate on a subscription basis, costing users between $5-10 per month.

What Data Does Neeva Collect?

Neeva isn’t saying that it doesn’t collect any information when it talks about user privacy; it says that you can trust it to keep your data safe and not pass it on to advertisers or third parties.

There is a lot of information regarding how data is collected and used by the engine on the site. Here is some of the information Neeva can collect from you:

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Location information
  • Name
  • User settings
  • IP address
  • Information you save in your ‘spaces’
  • Payment information
  • Operating system or device
  • Mailing address
  • Cookie identifiers
  • Information regarding your contacts
  • The browser type and version you use
  • Pages that you visit

If you participate in a survey, forum, social media page, or blog, Neeva can also collect personal information shared there in addition to the duration and frequency of these online activities.

You also have the option to connect your G Suite, Slack, Dropbox, Office 365 accounts, which Neeva states will increase the comprehensiveness of your search results.

It may also utilize local storage and cookies to collect data regarding your preferences and settings.

Finally, if you access Neeva via Apple, Google or Microsoft, the platform may also collect your profile picture, email address, and name from these.

The good news is that the platform adheres to the Google API Services User Data Policy and does not share information across accounts or apps.

It is worth noting that your data may be aggregated or de-identified, which would mean that the information isn’t subject to their Privacy Policy.

How Does Neeva Use This information?

That’s a lot of data being collected. So, for a platform whose whole identity is around your right to privacy, what does it do with this information?

Not only is Neeva extremely transparent in the information it collects, but also how it uses the data it collects:

How Neeva uses information

Although Neeva doesn’t sell your information, it does share it with service providers:

What Neeva shares with service providers

It may also share your data with third parties to protect itself or others, corporate groups, and states the usual boilerplate sharing of data if the company is sold, merged, or transferred, etc.

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So, How Is This Different?

Good question. Neeva is transparent about the information it collects, but what I particularly like about this platform is the level of control users have. When using the search engine, you can:

  • Access your personal data
  • Update or correct this information
  • Request restrictions or deletion

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this search engine is that your search history is automatically deleted 90 days after it is collected.

This doesn’t apply to your ‘Spaces’ or data associated with connected accounts, but you can delete these yourself.

Data such as payment and log-in credentials are kept for longer, but Neeva is clear that it only holds this data:

“as long as necessary to fulfil the purpose(s) for which it was collected, comply with applicable laws, comply with audits, and enforce our Terms of Service.”

Platforms like Facebook have a minimum age requirement, and so does Neeva:

Snippet from Neeva's privacy policy

How Is This Different To Google?

In comparison, Google’s auto-delete is set to 18 months by default; however, users can change this to 3 months.

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Neeva promotes that it doesn’t sell your data. Google specifies that any data shared with advertisers is not personally identifiable unless users have given permission:

What Google does with your data

The tech giant also utilizes ‘leading anonymization techniques’ to continue providing its service while protecting user data.

Google also uses differential privacy that ‘adds noise’ to ensure your data cannot be used to identify you.

You can view, manage and download the information Google collects about you across its services.

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Do We Need Another Search Engine?

In an age where Google is the most trusted tech giant in the U.S., and there are already multiple search engines available, is another search platform even necessary?

It appears so.

Tens of thousands of people are signed up to Neeva’s waitlist.

This month, Neeva raised $40 million to accelerate the project, bringing the engine’s total funding to $77.5 million and is valued at $300 million.

Neeva is currently in limited beta testing and is planned to be rolled out in 2021.

Citations

Google’s privacy practices
Forbes report
Neeva’s blog

local_offerevent_note March 16, 2021

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