In this hyper-connected world, your internet privacy is always under threat at every corner. Your personal information is collected without taking consent and sold to advertisers and other third-parties to earn1 profits.
You most likely use search engines like Google and Bing to search on the web for information but don’t make the mistake of trusting them to protect your privacy. Unless you are using a private search engine, your online experiences are heavily personalized and based on your previous activity.
Search engines such as these record basic details every time you conduct a search. They are saving your IP address (to view your location), cookies (to trace queries back to you), search queries (to show targeted ads), and even data and time of a query (to gain better insights into your behavior).
As such, you need to switch from these popular names and use a private search engine that not only respects your personal space but also provides you with ample functionalities to ensure a safe and private browsing experience.
Before we get started, there are a couple of terms that you must understand.
Terminologies – To Understand Private Search Better
- Filter Bubble: When search engines create a user profile and show results solely based on the preferences of that individual.
- Proxy Server: Plays the role of a middle agent between the user and its destination and hides your IP address.
Top 9 Private Search Options
Many private search engines claim to protect the privacy of their users’, but it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equally. We have done the leg work and separated the best from the rest for your convenience:
StartPage is like Google for privacy-oriented people. It is based in the Netherlands, a country with relaxed privacy laws for netizens. It does not log the IP address of users and never shares their information with third-parties. It has filtering options that let you search for images only. StartPage also comes as a Google Chrome extension and Firefox add-on for your convenience. It offers features like:
- Searches via a proxy server to protect your real location and IP address.
- URL generator eliminates the need for cookies when it comes to saving your preferences and settings.
- Only HTTPS support so that you only get trusted websites in the SERPs.
DuckDuckGo is one of the best search engines known for its privacy. It has many features similar to StartPage, and both are comparatively popular in the private search circle. Yes, ads are a part of DuckDuckGo’s revenue model, but they are non-personalized and based on searches alone – not on your search history or behavior!
Also, the CEO of DuckDuckGo Gabriel Weinberg has publicly claimed, “If the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you.” The private search engine stands out because of the following unique features:
- DuckDuckGo uses 400+ sources, including Yandex, Yahoo, Bing, and Wikipedia, to fetch its results.
- You can search a particular website by adding an exclamation mark before the query.
- DuckDuckGo makes money through advertising and affiliate programs. That’s why you see the non-personalized ads on top of every search page like Google.
- DuckDuckGo entertains more than 10 million searches per day without storing any user-centric information. Moreover, they don’t store any IP addresses!
Qwant is a European private search engine with 10 million searches a day. Of course, we would prefer it any day over a US-based counterpart because of better Internet regulations. The search engine doesn’t record any user data without consent, and neither does it sell out to advertisers for money. We like Qwant because:
- If you type a search query followed by ‘&’ or ‘!’ and the name of the website, Qwant will exclusively show results from that particular website only.
- Search results are divided into categories like web, News, or social media.
- Qwant stops users from getting stuck in the filter bubble by showing organic results to each and every search query.
Disconnect Search is not a search engine in a conventional sense. You can use it as an add-on or through its website. It brings search results from other search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing, etc. You can also set different parameters for a search like the location. Disconnect Search has features such as:
- No identifiable information is recorded about users.
- Disconnect Search offers end-to-end encryption to keep your search queries private.
Swisscows is different in the sense that it actually tries to answer your question rather than giving you generic search results. This private search engine basically uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to better gauge users’ search queries, and show relevant results.
A Swiss company called Hulbee AG has developed Swisscows. The origin country is known for its exemplary privacy ethics. Swisscows doesn’t record any kind of user data, and it takes no part in advertising.
The developers of Gibiru have openly said, “Gibiru is faster than the NSA Search Engines since it does not install all sorts of personalization and tracking cookies on your system.” Well, that’s a bold statement but it puts everything in perspective.
Gibiru uses Google’s algorithm for fetching the relevant search results but doesn’t track or record any data. If you could imagine Google without Google ads, well that’s what Gibiru is all about. The people behind Gibiru have always been very outspoken about Google’s unjust and unnecessary user invasion, manipulation, and censorship.
Yippy is a very simple private search option. It basically categorizes your search results into specific sections. For instance, if you search cats then the results will include cat pictures, cat food, cat videos, etc. You can decide which sections are relevant for you and mark the ones unnecessary. Yippy displays no ads, personalized or otherwise.
Searx.me is an open source search engine that collects its results from other search engines but takes utmost care of user privacy. Searx.me gives complete control in the hands of users. You can customize your search as much as you like in forms of categories, location etc. For customization, go to settings and then user preferences area and change it.
3 Ways to Stay Protected while Using Popular Search Engines
The purpose of search engines is to provide you the most relevant search results without being biased. Most of the times you get search results that are exactly what you were looking for or you see ads about the products that you were planning to buy. Well, that’s not a coincidence. It’s a planned data mining mission where you are profiled to a tee without consent. It’s an endless and hopeless trap.
Still, if you are not ready to switch to a private search engine, there are some methods to enhance your privacy while using popular options:
- If you are using Google or Yahoo, always open the Incognito or Privacy Mode before searching for anything.
- A VPN is a great asset to hide your IP address and location from all spying eyes. Choose a VPN that’s located in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, and with features geared toward your privacy and security.
Private search engines are not entirely perfect, but they are definitely your last resort of hope in the online world of deceit. You cannot find an ideal combination where privacy is 100% respected and you get the relevant search results as well.
That said, we have revealed the good and bad of these private search engines and given you enough options to choose from. Now, it is up to you!
Did we miss any private search engines? Please let us know in the comments section below.