I like the idea that users can take back control of their data in a variety of ways, and I really like the fact that my web search results are not being used to direct ultra-targeted ads toward me.
I have been using DuckDuckGo for a while now, have used Presearch when I use Chrome as a browser, and Startpage is my search tab on my Edge browser.
Recently I have been having a look at Germany-based tech startup Xayn's app for my Android device.
It is based on research in privacy-protecting AI and stands for transparency and ethical AI made in Europe.
The app lets you have control over its search algorithms.
By swiping left or right on the results, you can influence what results are displayed and can teach the algorithms which results you want to see more of in the future.
Its AI model is a quantized tiny multilingual Sentence-BERT optimized for mobile to understand the natural language of queries of the words you used in your query as well as in the results.
Then it uses an unsupervised clustering model to group these points into different clusters of interest -- for example, sports or arts.
It then calculates the distance to the clusters to reduce the computational cost in the future.
A third model called ListNet analyzes the history of search interactions to understand which types of domain you like -- for example, Wikipedia instead of Instagram
Search companies want to know as much as possible about you so that they can control the results that are delivered to you.
The problem is that to get the most accurate search results, users have to compromise their privacy. Xayn keeps its data completely with the user.
With Xayn, users can customize features such as turning AI on to deliver unique search results and can turn it off if they do not want the feature.
The app gives you a one-hand control and zero-click search to make it easy to use. Collect, store, and sort through your favorite web content so that you do not lose any information.
Your home screen shows your own personal feed of the web, determined by your search history.
Leif Nissen Lundbæk, co-founder and CEO at Xayn, said:
"I've always hated having to choose between privacy and convenience when searching online.
I also found it creepy that I didn't know why certain results were shown to me by the algorithms. Despite all that, I was still using established search giants, because I lost too much time finding what I was looking for with the privacy alternatives."
The only challenge I can see with Xayn is that users might swipe away all of the news articles that do not match their fundamental beliefs.
There is a risk of the app displaying ever more right-wing or left-wing content over time. Users prefer to see the types of articles they like and form a 'bubble of belief' to validate their choice.
A really clever AI will be able to solve this issue one day -- but, for now, this neat customizable app will deliver exactly the results you want to see with the privacy you need.