Remember Cuil, the search engine launched in 2008 that was supposed to be a Google-killer? Didn’t think so.
The policy included a section on “Logs”, noting simply that “We do not keep logs of our users’ search activity.” In the policy’s “Cookies” section, Cuil confirmed that “We do not record the information in your cookies on our servers” and that “we do not store any personal information about you on our servers.”
Upon their launch, Cuil declared that its “methods guarantee online privacy for searchers”.
Except, that’s no longer the case.
Advertisements are from a third-party and when you click on ads, we direct you to another website. To place ads in the first place, we transmit the IP address, browser type, and the query to the third party. If you want to opt out, please visit the preferences panel.
Whoa! Cuil transmits my search query and my IP address to the third party advertiser in order to place the ad? That’s a radical departure from its original “Your search history is your business” mantra.
Cuil also goes out of its way to make it difficult for users to opt out of this wholesale sharing of a users search activity. The preferences panel does have a handful of settings on it. But you have to look closely to see the link to “Advertising preferences” in a font much smaller than the rest of the page (screenshot). Only when you click that does Cuil decide to offer you the option to turn this off (screenshot).
On a related note, I can’t even find the ads within Cuil’s search results. There are no obvious “sponsored links” or separate advertising section within their interface. And searches for “Las Vegas” and “New York Hotel”, keywords that should certainly spark some advertising activity, are the same whether I have the advertising preferences turned on or off. I’ve emailed Cuil asking for clarification for how advertising is integrated into their results.