May 25, 2022

Research Tools: “Search Engine Could Help Researchers Scour Internet For Privacy Documents”

Note: We first mentioned PrivaSeer in an infoDOCKET post on April 25, 2020.

From Penn State University:

A search engine that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to “read” through millions of online documents could help privacy researchers find ones that are related to online privacy. The researchers who designed the search engine suggest it could be an important tool for researchers trying to find ways to design a safer internet.

In a study, the researchers said that the search engine, which they dubbed PrivaSeer, uses a type of AI called natural language processing — NLP — to identify online privacy documents, such as privacy policies, terms of service agreements, cookie policies, privacy bills and laws, regulatory guidelines and other related texts on the web.

Ultimately, though, the search engine could help researchers better understand online privacy in general and examine online privacy trends over time, which could one day lead to an internet that users could navigate more safely and securely, according to Shomir Wilson, assistant professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State and an Institute for Computational and Data Sciences affiliate.


The privacy policies were collected by the PrivaSeer search engine during two separate crawls of the web. A web crawl refers to systematically browsing the internet at a large scale, as performed by a software program. The first crawl occurred in July 2019. The second crawl occurred in February 2020.

The PrivaSeer database now consists of approximately 1.4 million English language website privacy policies.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.