Written by: Elizabeth March
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:
In terms of privacy, there are some things we need to look over:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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 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 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.