Our search activity presents an incredibly depressing puzzle. We made the conscious decision to trade privacy for persuasion a long time ago, but according to a recent survey, at least 92% of respondents have privacy concerns. Nevertheless, we continue to use services that collect information about us faster than a seagull fries on the beach.
Maybe we just need a more secure search that has the algorithmic capabilities of the standard search but also takes the user experience into account. This is what the new search engine Xayn wants to offer. An alternative to the torture chamber for data protection that we were in. We seem to enjoy the sadomasochism of existence on the internet, however, as every time a search alternative comes up, Google continues to be the top priority.
Google holds over 90% of the global search engine market share, with the rest fighting for scrap. If you just look at the US, just the mobile search engine, then DuckDuckGo is Google’s dominance at 2.39%. Google is 94.19%. Here you would insert the butterfly meme and ask, “Is that a monopoly?” Well, that’s what the Justice Department is trying to find out. It’s hard to imagine a new search application breaking into Google’s market share too much, regardless of the privacy impact.
What Xayn offers is the future of how we should deal with search and privacy. With Xayn, users can control the search algorithms. By simply swiping the results, users can change the algorithm. This is because instead of sucking in user data and aggregating it into a central point, all of the AI machine learning is done right on your device through federated machine learning. You can also just turn it off if you want.
With the addition of a pandemic to our hyper-connected reality, privacy concerns like the movie in your pudding cup you skipped overnight have risen to the fore. The EU is particularly concerned that Facebook is a little irresponsible when it comes to privacy concerns. Regardless, we should look for tools that offer the same services as big data alternatives but focus more on data protection.
Xayn was designed from the ground up with privacy in mind. Instead of being full of Silicon Valley bois, this startup focused on curbing features just because they can. This startup was founded by academics. 30% of the employees have a doctorate. These academically-minded staff have worked hard on ethical AI-based solutions, including its search application. Rather than addressing privacy concerns later (if at all), Xayn created these whiteboards before any code was ever written.
The founders of Xayn, Leif-Nissen Lundbæk (Ph.D.), Felix Hahmann and Professor Michael Huth, have dedicated their careers to creating ethical AI systems to secure our data protection for the future.
“So far, users have always been the loser – they either had a good search experience or they protected their privacy,” Lundbæk says via email. “Now they can finally choose a search engine without compromise because we offer privacy and convenience. And we bring people into AI because we enable them to control the search algorithms.”
Features include an AI personalization model that users can toggle on and off. AI swipe that puts users in control of their search results; an intuitive user interface with one-handed control and zero-click search; Collections for collecting, storing and sorting favorites; A home screen that acts as your personal RSS and is curated by the user. It’s this AI modeling that really speaks to a possible future of search that doesn’t require the current state of data collection.
The AI model consists of four AI models developed in XayNet, a specially designed framework for masked federated machine learning. The app does not collect any user data at all, but rather combines the encrypted AI models from the users’ devices into a collective model. All of this is done asynchronously using homomorphic encryption to protect privacy. The models learn from each other, then the collective model is fed back to the users’ devices. Then there are a number of details about each of the four individual models, but the gist of it is that every time you search AI modeling gets better, never at the expense of your privacy.
We clearly find it difficult to grapple with the ramifications of all these years of behavior that have created a world where our privacy is next to nonexistent. Xayn and similar apps can at least technically prove that it is possible to maintain the usual functionality and at the same time protect our privacy. The trick is to create something that will gain wide acceptance before we go back to the familiar because regardless of privacy concerns, we know.
Will Xayn be able to gain enough market share to at least make a difference in how we understand how these applications work? It is too early to answer, but it is a step in the right direction, because to operate in a world that is slowly depriving us of our individual human right to data protection is exhausting.
A desktop app is being developed for the future, but for now the Xayn search app is only for cellphones. This is where we spend most of our time looking for random crap anyway.
Xayn is now available in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.