Introducing Oscobo: A different kind of search engine

Compare the Cloud has been interviewing a number of digital innovators and today the focus is on Oscobo, a UK-based Privacy Search Engine. Founded in 2015, Oscobo was launched on the belief that personal data should remain personal. We sat down with Rob Perin, co-founder at Oscobo to hear a bit more about the company.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Oscobo is the UK’s first Privacy Search Engine – providing true search results”]

1. What is Oscobo?

Oscobo is the UK’s first Privacy Search Engine. We are proud to say that we do not track you, we don’t use cookies, we don’t look at your IP and we store no data on the user. We just provide “true” search results based solely on the words typed in the search box.

Our motto is “we don’t know who you are and we don’t want to.”

2. Where does the name Oscobo come from?

“Scobo” means “to look into” or “probe” in Latin and the letter “O” means “not” or “non” in Swedish. So we have taken some creative licence by mixing our languages, but to us “Oscobo” means “not to probe, not to track.”

3. What inspired you to create a different kind of search engine?

Myself and Fred Cornell are the co-founders of Oscobo, and we worked together in 2000 in the start-up incubator IdeaLab. I went on to work for BlackBerry as Commercial Director for Europe and Fred as Director of Operations for EMEA for Yahoo!

While at Yahoo, Fred learnt about the online search industry and became uncomfortable with the way personal data was tracked, recorded and sold to advertisers. After 10 years working there he left the company and set out to put the record straight. 

By 2015, I’d left BlackBerry and was in search of another game changing company and Fred shared his idea of developing a privacy search engine with me. We both saw a gap in the market, especially in the UK where no UK-centric privacy engine existed and after a period of developing and testing the platform in Europe we launched Oscobo in January 2016.

4. Why do you think online privacy is becoming increasingly important?

Some people who use the internet think most content is for free and others understand that they are funding it with their personal data. However, as more and more technology is creeping into our lives with the use of tablets, phones, online banking, etc, more and more data is being collected. People are starting to realise just how invasive and, indeed, how dangerous it is to leave so much personal information on the web and are starting to think twice about sharing so much information online. 


5. What would you say to users who feel that, having nothing to hide, they have little need for a privacy-based search engine?

Using a privacy search engine has nothing to do with hiding things. It is to do with protecting your identity online so you will not be spammed, cold called, and perhaps even lose out on certain offers based on your profile. People who use a privacy search engine believe they have a right to surf online without everyone knowing everything about them, their spending habits, their income bracket, what they “like” and what they are looking for.

Your ISP will know exactly what pages you are looking at and must legally file that. The issue is when your data is being collected and then sold on to advertisers. Also, data that is stored is data that can be hacked.

6. Who is Oscobo aimed at?

Oscobo is aimed at those people who believe they have a right not to share their age, sex, marital status, buying habits and income bracket everytime they search for something online.

It’s for people who want to be given true algorhythmic search results based purely on what they type in the search box and not based on what advertisers “think” they want to see.

7. Is there a trade-off in terms of usability because you do not keep personal user history?

There is a small trade off.  We don’t hold any data so you could type “Five Star Hotel Paris” once and then a second later go to search it again and we would not be able to know who you are or predict what you are typing.

I would say the “cost” of having such convenience of not having to type terms twice, is far outweighed by the benefits. If an advertiser knows you are a middle aged manager who frequently flies for business and has been looking all day for a flight to Paris, they are more likely to increase the price than if they think you are a young student looking for the first time.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Oscobo is for people who want to be given true algorhythmic #search results based on what they type”]

8. What are Oscobo’s plans for the future/expansion?

Oscobo will be rolling out across Europe and internationally providing localised search results in each country in the near future. We will also be developing some of the features on the site in the next few months to improve usability and have a roadmap of products and apps to come out later in the year.

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