back to article Google mulled offering paid-for no-logging private Search subscription

In 2018, concerned about the public's perception of its privacy practices, Google leaders proposed a subscription-based private Search service, one that doesn't log queries and other data. According to testimony in Google's ongoing antitrust case, Danny Sullivan, public liaison for Google Search, endorsed the subscription idea …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the other hand it could also reflect a realisation that tailored/personalised/behavioural advertising - the IT equivalent of a guy in a greasy raincoat following you around and noting everything you do - is rubbish and that all one gets presented are ads for stuff a bit like what you looked at but in actuality nothing like it,

    If that wasn't doing enough evil, don't get me started on Google's other persistent trait of doing evil by poisoning the first page (and seemingly growing) of search results with sponsored "results" that are uniformly useless.

    1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Silver badge

      I had the latter just now: looking for background on a well-known scam, because I'm tired of the knob ends phoning me, and Google gave me a single, extra-long page of companies selling the thing I wasn't at all interested in buying and nothing else. Not even the usual irrelevant crap it's become bogged down with, but certainly not a word about the nature of the scam.

      I suppose the only reason I haven't switched is because every time I try the alternatives their results aren't really any improvement; though I suppose it's still worth switching away from Big Evil in spite of that.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      first page (and seemingly growing) of search results with sponsored "results" that are uniformly useless

      Amazon are getting as bad - search for 'esata card' produces a list where the top two items (and a randon scattering later' are 'sponsered' items - which often have nothing to do with the search terms.

      Fortunately, they still label them as sponsored so it's relatively easy to skip past them. At the moment anyway..

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Or the search that takes you to an Amazon page for an item that does not exist any more so you have a page of "similar items", most of which are nothing to do with what you want or unknown Chinese shite as well.

  2. Sora2566 Bronze badge

    "How could we be seen as less creepy?"

    "Well, we could *be* less creepy?"

    "Nah that doesn't work for us, what else you got?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      er... we could LOOK like we're less creepy?

      bottom line: we make a shitload of money off 'free!', but hey, there's this group who somehow shy away, there's money to make off those suckers too!

  3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Search

    The thing is Google's search today doesn't work.

    It resembles abandoned Wordpress instance where you can find more spam, malware than the content you are interested in.

    And a ton of adverts that are irrelevant to you shown by broken stalking and targeting algorithm.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Expensive subscriptions

    Subscriptions is a good idea. But they must allow minimal usage and per-usage payments, similar to paying for individual SMSs and phone calls. Why should I pay 10 per month, if I only use such service a few times?

    Also aggregated subscriptions should be allowed by law: pay in one place, and use multiple services from different service providers.

    Banning targeted advertising and trading of personal data is another important step.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Expensive subscriptions

      I didn't downvote, but why on earth would:

      1, people pay a Google subscription when there are alternative (free) search engines, some of which respect privacy

      And:

      2, is anybody really dumb enough to believe that Google would honour this and not slurp the data anyway simply because it's there and they can? Oh, sure, they'll wrap it up in cutesy phrases like "to improve the services we offer you", but slurp slurp slurp. The only thing paying would do is get you an "I'm a sucker" badge (which I believe looks like a little blue tick).

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Expensive subscriptions

      "pay in one place, and use multiple services from different service providers"

      That would be good with the ever increasing plethora of streaming services.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or

    Just don’t use Google?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or

      This. They may still do subscriptions given their reach but they've been beaten to the private search punch a while ago. Startpage is my defacto now since I heard a few concerning* things about DDG.

      They do win on one regard though. Maps. No other search service is close to the quality of google maps, but I still don't want to use them if I can avoid it.

      *Though perhaps not *this* concerning

      https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/13/google-location-tracking-android-iphone-mobile

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Close to irrelevance

    Instead of just offering a queryable engine for letting me find potentially relevant websites, Google made the mistake of trying to tailor Search to be something it wasn’t: An answerer of questions. I’m only a year or two away from being able to run an entirely local LLM (no Internet access required) to do that, so why would I or anyone else want to pay for what we already have for free without ads?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    our own alternative to ourselves

    how do you believe an uber-thief that they they will, but HONESTLY! definitely NOT break into your house once you pay them? Plenty of other houses to break into guv, that's their argument?

  8. Jellied Eel Silver badge

    Dear Google

    How about you pay me £10 per window, or part thereof, and I won't come along and smash them all. But the quotes from the AlphaGoos make it pretty clear that they just don't understand the problem, or their customers-

    "Whatever – the fact that we'd automatically delete data speaks volumes that no, we don't want to suck up all your data and keep it forever. It's so unimportant to our supposed 'got to profile you all because we're an ad monster' profile that we're not going to keep it."

    Then why do it? If the data are 'so unimportant', then why hoover up every possible scrap? And if it's 'so unimportant', doesn't that de facto point to a breach of the Data Protection principles that require the minimum data necessary be collected, processed and stored. If AlphaGoo don't want to be perceived as evil perhaps a statement and a change to T&Cs that announce a new policy of minimal data collection and the data points that will be saved for say, 3 months. Everything else won't be saved, or saved with my profile.

    As for search, they really don't get it. Yes, I know how much Lexis/Nexis costs. I also know that when I put keywords into that, the results will contain those keywords. It won't contain the crap AlphaGoo's 'AI' think I'm really trying to search for, or their ad flingers want me to look at. I'm certainly not going to pay $10 for 1,000 searches when the results are 97% garbage. Case in point is the way it seems to prioritise 'news' sources. So search on a name, or a thing and you'll get a news site, then probably dozens of pages with the same news article from everyone that's syndicated that story. Back in the good'ol days, at least there was some attempt to de-dupe that crap with 'similar results' hidden and an option to expand those.

    1. Lurko

      Re: Dear Google

      "But the quotes from the AlphaGoos make it pretty clear that they just don't understand the problem, or their customers"

      Well, I read it differently, that they FULLY understand the problem and their customers, but they're mindful that anything they write is at risk of discovery and publications - as in this instance - so that they are as careful as they can to avoid stating the problem, or what customers actually want and think. Gerald Ratner demonstrated the problem with being open and truthful.

  9. Tubz Silver badge

    Even if we paid Alphabet or Meta or any other mega tech IT corp a small monthly subscription, we just don't trust them not to continue to spy on us. It's in their corporate blood to be greedy, underhanded and they know the penalties are tiny compared to the profits !

  10. Marty McFly Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Presearch

    I am surprised more people have not discovered Presearch. Decentralized searching so big tech doesn't know who is searching what. I've been using it for several years and have multiple VMs serving nodes. The quality of the search results are just as good as anything else.

    Info on the project: https://presearch.io/

    Searches: https://presearch.com/ (And yes they have all the usual browser extensions too)

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Presearch

      I am surprised more people have not discovered Presearch. Decentralized searching so big tech doesn't know who is searching what. I've been using it for several years and have multiple VMs serving nodes. The quality of the search results are just as good as anything else.

      I'm less bothered about search terms being logged, other than what might happen with the logged data. I know it's useless to advertisers based on the ads I see. What I'm more concerned about is the results. Both Google & Bing are garbage now. For whatever reason, they seem to prioritise news sites rather than primary sources. So I often see something in a news story, want to search on something mentioned in that article, and when I do, I just get more copies of the same article.

      So as an example, there's been a few UN resolutions and votes recently. News article may mention the results, and X countries voted for, against, abstained. I want to know which countries, so would hope the first search result shows me the primary source, ie the UN and it's results page. It's also variable, ie the annual vote happened on ending the Cuba blockade. Query "UN resolution cuba voting results" and at least that one gives a UN press release as top billing, but then a couple of videos. And then the rest are-

      Missing: results ‎| Show results with: results

      Why decide to ignore one of the search terms? The other huge problem is if the search results are politicised, ie certain results are prioritised over others. Often when I comment here, I like to cite my sources. So more than a few times, I've searched for titles of papers I have PDFs of, but if that's on something 'controversial' like climate science, both google & bing will show me a load of 'denial' sites, not the actual paper & journal.

  11. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Holmes

    Google Gimmes

    I like the idea of getting people to pay for what should be the default. Most ingenious. Auto salesmen could have buckets of muddy water poised over their exits as satisfied car buyers leave and offer not to drench the new car for a modest fee.

    How about instead Google pays searchers for rifling through their data ?

    1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: Google Gimmes

      Nice data you got there. Be a shame if some scrote decided to nick it guv'nor. Would you like me an' Lefty 'ere to look after it for you. For a modest consideration an'all that.

  12. Nightkiller

    This is nothing less than paying protection money.

  13. Tron Silver badge

    Not worth it.

    Not if you only get a couple of pages of irrelevant pop culture links, ignoring most of your search terms, as you do now.

    The logging is not a problem unless you are paranoid or likely to get tortured by your government.

    I'm old enough to remember when Google was good. An unlimited number of results, specific to your search query, global, language-blind, no censorship. That was a search engine. We could do with someone relaunching the original style of search, doing it distributed, and adding all the bells and whistles - persistent searches, multiple contexts, crowd-sourced results.

    The internet we have now isn't worth the money. Someone needs to start building the next gen distributed stuff. A whole new world.

  14. teebie

    "Ultimately, we felt like the complexity of having to specify an arbitrary time frame made the experience actually hard to use by default"

    Saying 'delete everything after 6 months' is difficult? That doesn't sound correct.

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