HOMOSASSA, Fla. --Jeffrey Sisk spends most days on his veranda overlooking the woods, working on a computer. His dog, Simon, a Shih Tzu, sits at his feet. His TV stays tuned to Fox News or CNN.
Sisk was outraged by news that the U.S. government is monitoring the email and Internet activity of American citizens, information that was leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Sisk felt strongly that the government should not spy on average, unsuspecting citizens.
Sisk, 49, quickly got to work creating Zeekly.com, a search engine that protects the privacy of its users. Unlike Google, Yahoo and other search engines, it doesn’t keep track of websites people visit or the keywords they search. And because Zeekly is encrypted, Internet and phone providers can’t decipher the communication between a user’s Web browser and Zeekly’s servers.
“If I got a court order tomorrow, I can honestly tell them we’re not storing the data,’’ he said. “There’s nothing for the government to get.’’
Zeekly joins an expanding field of search engines devoted to privacy, an issue high on many people’s minds since the Snowden story. The largest, DuckDuckGo, saw usage jump to 4 million daily searches this month from 1.4 million a year ago. After some mentions on news and techie sites, Zeekly reached a total of 1 million page views after the first week.
DuckDuckGo founder and chief executive officer Gabriel Weinberg said all the talk about Snowden created an opportunity for DuckDuckGo users to spread the word about the site and its usefulness. Many people accustomed to Google switched to DuckDuckGo as their primary search engine.
“There are many good reasons why people don’t want to be tracked, and it’s not just the government requests, which are serious. It’s also the commercial ads,’’ he said. “People are noticing they are following them around. It’s kind of creepy and annoying, and it’s getting worse.’’