Like most people, you probably turn to Google when you need to search for something online. However, what if we were to tell you that Google doesn’t respect your privacy and tracks your information?
That’s right! While big search engines like Yahoo!, Bing, and Google help us find what we need on the web, they do so while grabbing as much information about us as possible. Fortunately, there’s a way around this predicament.
Using a private search engine, you can find what you’re looking for online without compromising your privacy. This article reveals our top picks for the best private search engines and why you might want to stop using Google.
Why Should You Use a Private Search Engine?
Google and other popular search engines are data-collecting machines. They have no regard for your privacy and track everything you do, such as your search terms, the results you click on, how many times you modify the search query, and so more.
All this data is used by them to build a detailed profile of your interests and behavior. These “user profiles” are sold to advertisers, who then flood you with targeted advertisements. The good news is, you have privacy-focused alternatives if you’re concerned about the tracking behavior search engines like Google do.
What Does Google Know About You?
As mentioned above, the problem with traditional search engines like Google is that they spy on your online activities. The more they can learn about you, the better they can target their advertising efforts.
To do this, Google stores a variety of information such as your IP address, cookie ID, data and time, and search terms every time you type in a query. These details are usually transferred to your requested web page and third-party advertisers.
If you don’t want your data to be collected or shared with anyone else, your best bet is to switch to a privacy-friendly search engine. Which one should you choose though? We’ve listed our top recommendations below.
5 Best Private Search Engines
Now, let’s take a look at the best search engines (in no particular order) that you can use in place of Google:
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of the name DuckDuckGo. The private search engine is quite popular, serving around 14 million searches a day. It gathers results from more than 400 sources like Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Yandex, and Bing.
DuckDuckGo offers unique features like !bang that lets users search directly on other websites such as Amazon. The company does record your searches, but they’re not associated with your IP address and can’t be tied back to you.
As for how DuckDuckGo makes money, it shows ads from Yahoo! based on your search terms and are affiliates of Amazon and eBay. This isn’t the same as selling your data, but if you want a search engine that operates independently of such companies, you can go with any of the other options below.
Your search queries aren’t logged either. The company uses its own private servers and doesn’t depend on any third-party infrastructure. Furthermore, it is based in privacy-friendly Switzerland. How does Swisscows earn money, though?
It shows sponsors’ banner ads along with your search results. These are based on your search terms and not your search or location history (which is the case with search engines like Google). In other words, the ads served to you are contextual and non-invasive.
StartPage is arguably the best Google alternative currently available. Based in the Netherlands, it delivers search results from Google without recording any user data and doesn’t share anything with third-parties.
The private search engine comes with advanced filtering options, including videos and pictures search. Like DuckDuckGo, it’s also available as an extension for Firefox and Chrome. StartPage offers distinct features that set it apart from its rivals.
These include HTTPS support, a proxy service called Anonymous View, and a URL generator. Moreover, the company has been certified by EuroPrise, which is an independent auditing authority backed by top European privacy organizations.
Searx is a metasearch engine that collects results from popular search engines like Google & aggregates and displays them. Your request is sent without any identifying data such as your IP address so that search sites receive the search phrase anonymously.
The company says it “doesn’t care about what you search for” – meaning no logs of your data or searches will be stored. Unlike other private search engines on this list, Searx doesn’t display ads against search queries.
All search result pages instead include a link for users to donate and support the service, and you’ll see the same on numerous other pages on Searx’s website as well. The “privacy-respecting” metasearch engine is also available as a Firefox extension.
Based in France, Qwant has better privacy measures than its American competitors as the company has to comply with EU laws on data and privacy. Therefore, you can be sure that it doesn’t log any user information without consent and has no data available for advertising.
The private search engine promises to help users escape the filter bubble, i.e. when you’re shown search results based on your profile and never get to see information opposing your views. Qwant is pretty user-friendly too, and categorizes your search results.
It also has a feature similar to that of DuckDuckGo’s !bang. All you have to do is type “!” or “&” before the name of your preferred website, and Qwant will only search that site for the most relevant results.
Pro Tip: Protect Your Online Privacy with a VPN
Private search engines like the ones discussed above won’t record or sell your information, but they can’t stop the websites you visit from doing the same. They can log your IP and track your movements across the web using cookies.
The same can be said for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as well. In most countries, they’re allowed to collect your online activities and sell them for a profit.
Your best line of defense against any entity that wants to track you online or use your browsing data is a VPN. It conceals your real IP address and encrypts your data, allowing you to use the internet with complete privacy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Private Search Engines Really Private?
Yes. Traditional search engines like Google make money by using ad targeting and sharing your data with third-parties. On the other hand, private search engines don’t track you, nor do they collect your data. They don’t let their marketing strategies get in the way of providing you with objective results.
How Do I Choose the Best Private Search Engine?
Keep the following factors in mind when choosing a private search engine:
- It should protect your privacy.
- It should provide appropriate search results.
- It should have an easy-to-use interface.
- It should offer settings for a more personalized experience.
Is DuckDuckGo Owned by Google?
Not at all. DuckDuckGo isn’t affiliated with Google and was founded in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg with a desire to give internet users a privacy-friendly alternative. In fact, one of the company’s first advertisements was “Google tracks you. We don’t,” on a big ol’ billboard in San Francisco.
Privatize Your Searches – It’s the Smart Thing to Do!
We believe that searching for something online shouldn’t come at the price of your personal information. If you’re concerned about the way that Google collects and handles your data, then using a private search engine can help keep your privacy intact while you search.