As we learn how much of our information is actually being recorded and used by the online services, more and more of us are deciding to try and protect our privacy any way we can. This includes many methods, including proxies, anonymous browsers, or even paid services, like some of the best VPNs out there, TorGuard for example.
However, many have turned to private search engines, and we’ve decided to see what is it that they offer.
As you probably know, search engines like Google, Yahoo!, and alike are actually spying on you, recording all of your searches and online behavior, and then sell this information to advertisers, and even choose to share it with law enforcers if they ask for it. The data they collect about you includes your IP address, time and date of your searcher, as well as exact search phrasing and also cookie ID.
Companies use this to profile you and bombard you with what they believe interests you. This often creates a so-called filter bubble, where you only get access to things that interest you and your point of view, and therefore prevent you from seeing the “bigger picture”.
Anyway, private search engines do a better job, since they don’t log your activities and don’t sell your info, and even though they rely on bigger engines (let’s say Google, for example) to generate your search, they don’t show them who is doing the search, and this prevents the bigger companies from tracking your activities. So let’s see which ones are there and which ones should you use if you decide to try one out.
It’s one of the most popular search engines, it’s US-based and their most important rule is never to track you or tie anything back to you. Their search results you’ll get come from Yahoo, which is one of the things that’s seen as a con when it comes to this company. The interface is clean, and the logo is seen as attractive and fun. It’s also pretty fast, has a lot of search filter categories, and the search, in general, is very good and tidy.
It’s free, so it makes money through ads, however, they are still untargeted, based on the search results, and clearly separated from the results themselves. Your privacy is an important thing for the company, and when it comes to features that offer, there are many, and most noticeable are “bangs”, which are a type of shortcuts to various websites that you might want to visit. All in all, it’s a great search engine if you don’t mind the Yahoo-based results instead of Google’s.
Startpage and Ixquick
These two are created and run by the same company. Earlier, Startpage showed Google’s search results, and Ixquick showed other engine’s and avoided Google. At the time, they’re combined and both bring back Google’s results.
It looks decent enough, but for those who don’t like it, it’s relatively customizable. When you type in the search bar, it doesn’t offer suggestions, but the results are still pretty fast, It clearly presents the results, and has only 3 search categories. It also makes money from ads, which are untargeted and clearly marked.
Privacy is very important since the company is based in the Netherlands, but it does run most servers in the US. However, there are non-US servers as well, and you can use them too, or even only them if you wish. It’s most important feature is the ability to choose a proxy server on the Startpage, and therefore put it between you and the website. It’s a good search engine, although when compared to DuckDuckGo, many would agree that’s just a little bit inferior to it.
This one is fully open source, and easy to setup, and it allows you to run your own instance of it. This means that this is the only one where you’re 100% sure that there’s no logging. It’s clear, clean and functional, but doesn’t care much for aesthetics. Search results come from many different engines, and you can even choose which ones to use. There are many search filters, and there are no ads. It also has a proxy option on the Startpage, like our previous entry, and when it comes to privacy, if you’re really, truly concerned, you can run your own SearX instance and be sure that it’s private.
Another US-based company that relies heavily on browser add-ons. It uses 3 different search engines to deliver results – Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. It doesn’t display searches on its own website, but rather sends you on another, but hides your identity. It has a Premium product and a free browser extension, so there are no ads involved. Since it’s from the US, it’s not the best choice if you’re worried about NSA tracking you, but it does it’s best to its job as best it can.
It’s a new search engine, and there’s not much info about it so far, but it made the list because of its innovative and interesting way of displaying search results. They’re posted as big thumbnail previews, and it’s a clever way of standing out when most of the other search engines all look alike. Its development should and will be followed closely.
Whichever of these you decide to go with, it should help greatly with the privacy of your search. Keep in mind that there are more of them out there and that you can do more research on your own. For now, these the ones that we think are best and recommend.