The Real Cost of Your Privacy = $56.53

The cost of privacy using traditional search engines

By using traditional search engines that track keywords and behaviors, these companies are making $56.53 per year per user on average. However, if you are reading this, you are probably making them much more since you are a more avid searcher than the average user.

We often hear that there’s no such thing as a “free lunch” so why do we think our online search tools could possibly be free? The real cost comes at the expense of your privacy, not dollars and cents, a far more valuable asset to the companies providing these “free” tools.

Most of the revenues generated come from targeted advertising based on your information: gender, age, personal/medical issues, and even your interests. All of these can be gathered relatively easily, like when you sign up for a new email account, use your phone to find a hotel or restaurant near you, self-diagnose your medical ailments by searching online, or look for a particular video, song, or product.

However, your loss of privacy could be costing you more than it’s making the search engines. For example, a Wall Street Journal [1] article showed that a travel webpage was steering Mac users towards pricier hotels. Also, Life Hacker [2] showed how popular retailers have shown different prices to different users for the same products based on the information they have collected. These are all direct costs to your wallet due to loss of privacy – these corporations call it price discrimination and think it’s ok.

In addition, you have probably seen ads following you around online. These are specific ads targeting you based on information that has been collected. The reason these ads follow you? They are trying to get an impulse purchase out of you; and they can be very effective.

Our estimates show that the average user is generating $56.53 of revenue for the search engines. This number can be as high as $103.90 for users in the United States and United Kingdom. However, what the user is truly losing goes far beyond this dollar value because their privacy can’t be recuperated.

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How much should search engines be paying you for your privacy?

Google’s global advertising revenue for 2014 was $59,056M [3]. Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land [4] estimates that there are 1.26T global searches on Google per year. By dividing these two numbers, we get that the information from each search generates $0.05 of revenue on average. Find out how often you search on Google here and multiply by $0.05. If you reside in the US or UK, you should multiply by a value closer to $0.10.


[1] “On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels.” WSJ. Accessed August 5, 2015.

[2] “How Web Sites Vary Prices Based on Your Information (and What You Can Do About It).” Lifehacker. Accessed 8/5, 2015.

[3] Google’s 10-K Filing for the 2014 Fiscal Year.

[4] “Google Still Doing At Least 1 Trillion Searches Per Year.” Search Engine Land. January 16, 2015. Accessed August 5, 2015.

Sebastian Henao Madrigal

CEO & CoFounder of Gyffu.com, the new search engine that protects the user's privacy