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Security & privacy

This new search engine’s focus is privacy, but will it really protect you?

Verizon is one of the biggest companies in the United States, and oversees numerous other businesses we’re all familiar with. It’s Yahoo’s parent company and owns AOL, Engadget, TechCrunch and more.

As you can see, the company isn’t averse to trying out new things. It even managed to cut a deal with Disney that gives Verizon subscribers a year of Disney+ at no additional cost. Tap or click to learn how to get Disney+ for free if you’re on Verizon Wireless.

And this year, Verizon is stepping into the spotlight with a “brand new” search engine that emphasizes privacy. Users can hide their search term history, get unfiltered results and best of all: be cookie-free. But is this search engine really as private as it claims to be? The answer may surprise you.

OneSearch: A ‘privacy first’ search engine?

Verizon debuted OneSearch, a supposedly new kind of search engine that puts user privacy front and center. While it certainly looks the part with its sleek, black web design, let’s take a closer look at some of the features it alleges to offer.

© Verizon | Onesearch.com

Right on the home page, the site pledges to block cookies, avoid profiling you and avoid filtering your results. It also claims to hide and encrypt your search history from third parties, which it accomplishes via scrambling the site’s URL.

Sounds good, right? Will this be the site to dethrone DuckDuckGo in our Komando.com search engine recommendations? Well, not exactly. Tap or click here to see why we recommend DuckDuckGo at Komando.com

A misnomer in every sense of the word

A closer reading of the site’s privacy policy is quite revealing. Although the website doesn’t profile you, it’s still powered by advertisements. In OneSearch’s case, these are so-called “contextual ads” that go off of the search terms and keywords you enter. It will also use your IP address to determine your location for these contextual ads.

This brief snippet from OneSearch’s privacy policy illuminates the issue more clearly:

If you search for “flower shops” we may display an advertisement/search result for one or more flower shops. We will sometimes provide your Search Query and/or your general location to advertising partners in order to provide you with advertisements/search results but the information they receive is never identifiable to you as we do not provide your IP Address to any advertising partners.

© Verizon | Onesearch.com/privacy-policy

So right off the bat, you’ll see that although the site doesn’t “build a profile” for you the way Google does, it absolutely does profile you based on search terms and location data.

Additionally, despite claims of not using cookies, the EFF Privacy Badger (a browser extension that detects cookies) discovered a tracker connected to Yahoo’s image search engine. As we stated above, Verizon owns Yahoo.

So, we can see that the search engine isn’t all that private, nor does it completely avoid tracking you. But at the very least, it’s new and it will provide unique results compared to its competition, right?

Guess again! OneSearch actually pulls all of its search results from Microsoft’s Bing search engine. So, to put it bluntly, OneSearch isn’t completely private, it isn’t stopping you from being tracked and it’s not even a new search engine.

In fact, it’s not even one search engine, as the name would imply, but two — using code and data from both Bing and Yahoo. But “TwoSearch, the sort-of private search engine” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.

It’s not all bad

That said, OneSearch does have some advantages over Google and its kin. Unlike other search engines, OneSearch is designed to facilitate sharing of search queries. And it’s able to do so in a way that protects your information and privacy.

One of its advertised features is an “Advanced Privacy Mode” you can enable on the homepage. Turning this on will encrypt the URL, which means your search terms and intentions can’t be gleaned from analyzing it. This makes it secure to share search links with friends and family members.

It also claims to delete users’ IP addresses after a short period of time, which does make its tracking somewhat less invasive than other search engines like Google. It’s definitely not a bad start to a more private search method, but it’s quite different from what the name and marketing implies.

So is OneSearch private enough for Komando.com to recommend? At this point in time, probably not. But should Verizon continue to tweak its admittedly ambitious project, we might end up changing our tune.

In the meantime, there are still plenty of other methods to dodge the internet’s most annoying advertisers. Tap or click here to learn how to stop them from following you online.

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