April Fools 2019

New Search Engine Promises Total Privacy — And More Clicks

The last couple of years have brought a consumer, political and regulatory backlash against the privacy and data-sharing practices of big tech and social media firms. Today came a development that will surely capture of the attention of historians of the digital world of the early 21st century: The launch of a search (and shopping) engine so devoted to users’ privacy that no one really knows what results they are getting.

That includes not only the search engine operator — as a condition of this exclusive story, PYMNTS agreed to not reveal the venture’s name, or the angel “investors” who have funded it — but also applies to search engine users. No longer will they be tracked by location, or have their browsing history stored, sold and analyzed in return for free email and home-security services via the new operation.

So how does it work?

A person familiar with the matter, identified only as Mr. Ican Keepasecret, said a user types a phrase into the search engine and gets a result that the underlying algorithm determines is best suited to that search and that consumer.

Within a millisecond, the user will be presented with results … that disappear a minute later. Since the results are never stored, there is no related customer data to monetize.  But since the results disappear, Keepasecret said that it will drive more online sales.

“Consumers will be trained to know that they either need to use it – or lose it,” Keepasecret said, referring to those search returns.

On the surface, that would seem like introducing potential friction into the online consumer experience — if not outright confusion and even potentially destructive chaos. But he offered Snap Stories as a model — one in which consumers have been trained to act on what they see before it disappears entirely.

As for how the still-in-stealth-mode search engine will make money, Keepasecret said it is more of a pay-by-buy model, with the company taking 70 percent of each sale.

“Yeah, it sounds like a lot,” Keepasecret said, “But the surge in sales will more than make up for it.”

Keepasecret, who we observe is not all that great at keeping them, added that the AI running the search engine is smarter than pretty much any human or machine combination ever seen.

“Amazon thinks they can read a consumer’s mind,” he said, trying to suppress a chuckle. “They have nothing on us.”

He was less than forthcoming about how this new search engine will be marketed to consumers, except to say it will involve “cutting-edge techniques” like direct mail, along with a pop up “educational booth” presence during both weekends of this year’s Coachella music festival in California.

This story was written as part of PYMNTS’ annual April Fools’ Day edition, all in the spirit of good fun. Any resemblance to real news is purely coincidental. We hope you enjoyed it.

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