What would you say is the action you perform the most in a day? Some may think, walking or talking or typing, but how about – searching? Internet searching that is. Google performs 3.5 billion searches per day. You can see the number of searches per hour grow as people engage with the platform. It is really an astonishing thing. As human beings, we have learned to find answers in one place, and one place only – on the internet. For every question we have, we search for answers online. It has almost become second nature in modern society. Still, we do pay a price for such a service, as popular search engines such as Google, gives us an insight to anything we wish to know about. In return for having every answer at our fingertips, Google gets to know everything about us – if you have an illness, if you’ve lost your job, if you are going on a trip, if you are going through a divorce or separation, your interests and hobbies and perhaps some things you’d rather not share with even your closest friends, chances are Google knows about it first. This massive harvesting of information may slightly change with the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) proposed by the European Commission. These rules are aimed at strengthening and unifying data protection for individuals within the European Union, whilst addressing the export of personal data to outside the EU.
But, as with any other industry, new ways of approaching how we interact with the world as consumers are emerging, even without regulatory mandates. Consumers are increasingly more aware of issues such as how much plastic is involved in packaging in their groceries, the amount of food wasted in the world, the sacrifice that goes into making our clothes, etc. It has all now become a central theme of consumer dynamics. Social enterprises have played a great part in this shift. There are now more ethical and sustainable products in market, than there have been since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The power is not in the consumers hands and we can affect change with everything. This brings the question, with social enterprises engaging us on every one of our basic necessities from food to clothes, why hasn’t it affected our most obvious activity? Online searching.
So, how would an ethical search engine even work?
Typical search engines, such as Google and Yahoo use the ability to gather your information to power their advertising arm, which as we know is what generates their amazing revenue. One can say that Google, for example, is tracking us around the internet, building an individual advertising profile to better serve us with ads that will make us more likely to make a purchase. This is a well known fact. Some users are not particularly bothered, reasoning that if they’re going to see ads, they might as well see ones relevant to their interests. But it is not only your search data that is collected – your email data, contacts, calendar events, photos and documents is also harvested. Google elaborate on their data collection points here, if you are so inclined to read through them. An ethical search engine would be more considering of your data, and tracking. Some just will not do it, and that’s something worth thinking about.
A search engine that will not collect your information and basically use it to market to you seems a novel idea. With an ethical search engine, you are not the product.
Now add a layer to that – what if your search engine uses your information to help in a good cause? A search engine that would do exactly the same as Yahoo or Bing – you would be able to search for what you needed, and as well as your search results, you’ll be presented with relevant adverts based on your search terms. If you click on a sponsored link the sponsoring company pays the search engine for the click. The difference now becomes clear – the search engine would give the larger part of the profits to a charitable entity. Your web surfing automatically becomes ethical.
The reasons why you need an ethical search engine are quite clear – if you care about the your personal information that is available on the internet, then it is worth giving an ethical search engine a try. But if you wish to go beyond that and basically help a good cause doing what you would normally regardless, do think about search engines with a cause. Find one that supports a cause you can identify with, and use it more regularly than your other most popular search engines.
If you are already using a search engine, why not use one with a purpose?