5 Amazing Private Search Engines That Respect Your Privacy
Private search engines are becoming essential in this day and age, when you put yourself at risk by even connecting to the internet, let alone searching for anything.
They basically act the same as any other search engine, only that they block out any third-party protocol like those that Google or Microsoft use for reading your IP.
They won’t know who did the search.
The search engine itself appears the sole operator, the emitter of the search.
This is the simplest trick in the book, one that ensures your privacy when roaming the internet.
That being said, here is a list with some of the most effective private search engines available today.
Top 5 privacy-oriented search engines
If you’ve ever heard of Ixquick, then you probably know StartPage is run by the same company. In fact, the two search engines recently coalesced both their protocols to form a single entity.
The old Ixquick used to deliver results from anywhere else but Google. Now, however, all the results are based on Google.
Interestingly enough, StartPage removed any results associated with Yahoo because of the alleged collaboration between Yahoo and NSA. Obviously, the middle-ground was ways to spy on users and get certain information.
Let’s talk a little about the search results StartPage delivers:
- They are lightning-fast, almost the same as with Google, if not identical
- The font of the results page is just a bit different than you were used to but other than that, everything stays the same
- All the search results are taken directly from Google, so the accuracy and relevance are guaranteed
- There are ads being displayed above the search results, although they are clearly marked as being advertisements. This is, essentially, what brings money on the table for the men and women behind StartPage.
- By default, you get no search suggestions, but you can turn this option on in the settings
- You can make different searches based on certain parameters. The default ones are Web, Images and Videos categories. However, there is an advanced search option where you can go into more detail
- When searching for videos, you’ll see a preview in the form of an image.
In terms of privacy, there are some things we need to look over:
- First off, the company behind StartPage is based in the Netherlands, renowned for its firm attitude on supporting privacy
- However, the majority of its servers are located in the US. This might be worrying for some of you, but StartPage should logically secure them against anyone snooping around.
- And by “anyone”, I’m talking about government agencies, of course.
- You can also use non-US and non-EU servers
- Any website can be proxied
- It’s been given an A+ Qualys SSL security report
The proxy feature means that you access a website through a third-party server, StartPage’s, mediating the whole process. Practically, it’s like when you use protecting gloves to take a hot pot from the oven.
The gloves get burned while your hands don’t.
Your hands are the IP, the gloves are the proxy server, and the hot pot is the respective website you’re trying to access. That’s the gist of a proxy server.
This is one of the best privacy-oriented features ever to be implemented in a search engine. The whole idea is based on the principles of a VPN. It keeps your IP safe and secure, invisible for anyone but you.
The downside is that it will slow down your surfing speed a bit since StartPage must first analyze the page and redisplay them according to the proxy protocols.
- Same search results that you would get with Google
- Based in the Netherlands which has strong privacy laws
- No logs and no tracking whatsoever
- Non-targeted ads
- The option to proxy certain websites
- Independently audited by third-person specialists
- The default servers are based in the US, though you can choose ones that are out of the US
Use this feature on websites that you are likely to track your traffic and snoop around your personal information.
My personal opinion on the matter is that StartPage is, hands-down, an exceptional search engine in terms of privacy. And the proxy feature is absolutely fantastic.
In terms of popularity, no one comes even close to DDG (DuckDuckGo). It’s hands-down the most known private search engine across the internet.
Its CEO once publicly stated that even if the FBI would come to them asking for personal information on its users, they couldn’t comply because they don’t keep any sort of information at all.
However, the fact that it uses the databases of Yahoo, who’s been found to collaborate with the NSA, is a very worrying thing. Even though DDG continues to say that it doesn’t retain any user information, you can’t help but have some suspicions.
Let’s see how their search results fare:
- Search suggestions are delivered from the get-go
- The speed is substantially better than StartPage and almost identical to Google’s
- Concise and detailed summary of search results
- Just like StartPage, there are ads on display. However, they are clearly marked as being such, even more so than those at StartPage. Ads are DDG’s main source of revenue as well.
- The filter categories are much more complex and in-depth. You have the possibility to select between Web, image, videos, products, meanings, definitions, and news results.
- Most importantly, the filters are dynamic and adaptative. This means that you won’t even have to select a filter because DDG will automatically select the one closest to your search.
- The images can only be filtered in 3 categories – small, medium, and large
- All results can be filtered according to the date and country
- While searching for videos, you have to option to choose whether you want to access them directly from the DDG website. You will be warned that this will result in trackers left by either Google or YouTube, or both.
As I’ve said earlier on, the way DDG money is through ads. However, they are untargeted and are based on your search preferences and parameters.
Also, there’s absolutely no problem in spotting them from the real search results.
- One of the most important aspects to know is that DDG is based in the US, and is thus subjected to the legislation in effect. For instance, the Patriot Act could be reason enough for the US government to effectively force their hand to give out personal user information.
- It could even prevent them from warning its users of this using the same regulations.
- Its servers are Amazon-based, another company that subjects to the legislation and rules of the US government
- DDG received an A+ Qualys SSL security report
In terms of features, DDG has one of the best add-ons ever made for a search engine in terms of efficiency.
The “bangs” feature allows you to customize your search parameters by introducing certain commands before your search terms. For instance, type “!guk” at the beginning of your search to get only Google UK results.
However, these bangs will take you directly to the websites in questions, without proxying them first. This takes away privacy, no matter what anyone says.
Thankfully, you can combine these bangs with Startpage.com, thus getting efficiency and privacy in one single package. You only need to change the “!g” command to “!s” or “!sp”, and then add the appropriate terms after.
- No logs and no tracking
- The interface looks amazing
- Contextual filters
- Non-intrusive and non-targeted ads
- Faster than StartPage
- Results mainly based on the Yahoo search engine
- The entirety of its servers is owned by Amazon
- US company
DuckDuckGo is the most user-friendly search engine out there, and also the most good looking in terms of interface. Its popularity is well deserved.
However, the fact that it’s a US company does take away from its credence quite a bit.
This search engine is relatively unknown but it’s steadily gaining popularity, especially among the tech-savvy and privacy nuts. We’ll get to that in a second.
Most importantly, SearX is open-source, and it can be inspected by pretty much anyone. It’s also very simplistic to use and configure.
Now, for the reason I believe makes SearX the most secure and privacy-oriented search browser on the internet. You get to create your own individual instance that only you control, on a private server.
This basically means that no logs are kept, ever!
The way it deals with search results is even more interesting:
- You get no search suggestions
- No ads
- No extra filters for images
- There are a variety of filters for search results, like General, Files, Imagines, It, Map, Science, Social Media, Videos, Music, and News.
- There are Wikipedia entries to the right of your search results
- Just like StartPage, SearX allows you to proxy any search result. This gives you even more privacy at your fingertips, even though it might break some websites
- Clicking on videos takes you to the respective site the video’s hosted on.
- These results are thumbnailed though.
- You can download any search result in .csv and .json formats or as an rss file
- You get to manually select which search engine you want to get your results from. Evidently, the quality of the results is entirely dependent on which engine you select.
Since it has no advertising going on, it can be said that SearX is entirely a non-profit project, and since it’s open source, anyone can contribute to it, even financially. It’s just like Wikipedia in this instance.
In terms of privacy:
- You can’t find out if your searches are logged by SearX operators, not even on the official instance of the search engine.
- However, the same goes for StartPage and DDG as well. There are essentially no guarantees they are “private” in the strictest sense of the word.
- Creating your own SearX private search instance is, presently, the only way you can absolutely guarantee your searches are not logged.
- This aspect makes SearX the most secure private search engine out there, with the risk of repeating myself.
- It received an A in the Qualys SSL security report
- No ads at all
- You can proxy web-pages
- You can create your own instance of SearX
- You can manually choose which search engines to get your results from
- Public instances of SearX could be monitored and tracked
Personally, I believe that there are less chances you’ll be spied upon by any government agencies when using SearX, even the official instance, least of all when creating your own instance.
It’s an intuitive and easy-to-use search engine that’s sure to rise in the ranks very quickly.
4. Disconnect Search
You might have heard of Disconnect through their browser extensions, the best ones out there in terms of privacy and security. The Disconnect Search add-on for Firefox and Chrome is one of them.
There is also a Disconnect VPN that has the same basic protocols and functions as the search engine.
In terms of search results:
- All the searches are mostly done from the browser add-on that’s neatly placed in the right-hand corner of the screen, under the normal search bar
- You get to select what search engine to base your search results on, Yahoo, Bing or DDG (also the default one)
- Incognito mode is supported, as a form of added privacy
- Most interestingly, the search results are not displayed in another website, but in the selected search engine’s own website. The only difference is that the search is encrypted according to Disconnect’s algorithms.
Just like SearX, the fact that it has no ads or any affiliated marketing means that they are a non-profit product, the search browser that is. The VPN, however, is premium.
As far as privacy goes:
- All of the servers are based in the US and they’re part of Amazon. This increases the chances that government agencies might be snooping around your business.
- It received an A in its Qualys SSL security report
- No ads whatsoever
- No logs and no tracking
- Varied choices of search engines to select
- Based in the US
- Uses the Amazon servers
All in all, the Disconnect Search allows you to hide your IP when roaming the internet, but most importantly, it lets you do this from your favorite search engine.
At present, there’s not much information about Peekier, other than its no-logs policy, and the fact that it uses a completely new and innovative approach of displaying search results.
It looks exactly like the menu of a Windows phone, with expansive images of the website results you were searching for.
This is unprecedented, actually, since every other possible search engine uses the same template to display search results
Whether this gets the attention it deserves and whether it will rise to the expectations, in all the other aspects as well, remains to be seen. It’s worth paying attention to Peekier, that much is certain.
The Mother of all Conclusions
The problem with all other typical search engines is that they collect your personal information and spy on you without your knowledge.
This is the go-to strategy of every search engine on the market is to accrue as much information about you and your tastes as possible and then deliver targeted ads on your home turf.
Google, for instance, is doing this not only through your search terms and deductible search parameters but also through your email.
The information they collect consists of your query search terms, date and time of your query, your IP address, and the cookie ID.
Obviously, they can sell this information to third-party companies or even deliver it to government agencies, NSA and the like.
And if these aren’t reasons enough to start thinking about alternative search engines, then I’ve got one more thing that might change your perspective completely.
On a typical search engine, your results are analyzed, registered and put away. Your precise choice of words and overall ideas behind the searches are kept in mind. The next time you’re searching for something related, the search engine will automatically feed you results based on prior searches.
This is the so-called filter bubble.
In short, you do not have access to the entirety of the information on the internet, but to a selected part of it, carefully put together by your search engine, Google let’s say.
This can lead to the creation of prejudices, a confirmation bias thinking, and also to narrow-minded perspectives.