Search Engines

Best Private Search Engines

Are you looking to De-Google your life? One of the best ways to help safeguard your privacy and anonymity online is to change your search engine.

Although Google is still the most popular engine (by far), there has been a lot of development the past few years from other providers, especially in the realm of private search engines. This article covers a few and makes a recommendation on what is the best in terms of privacy, but also functionality.

Private Search Engines – What’s Out There?

We are lucky that we have a few out there now. The main players in the private search engines space are the following;

Each of the above four search engines claim to respect your privacy. Many companies say this, so as always, it’s important to take comments like this at face value and still put other privacy measures in place, such as VPN’s and proxies. For now though, let’s check out the features of all four.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo has seen tremendous growth lately. As more and more internet users put greater emphasis on privacy, traffic has spiked. DuckDuckGo, or DDG for short, is truly one the original private search engines. The company has been around for many years now and built considerable trust in the community.

It’s search results have improved drastically, but it is still no match for Google. That is common among all alternative search engines. Having said that, one of the best features of DDG is the use of !bangs.

Bangs are shortcuts that allow you enter your search in the URL bar, and then append an exclamation point and letter at the end of the query. For example, appending !r to the end of a search will use your keywords in the search area of Reddit itself. This is helpful as it takes you straight to Reddit and not the usual search results page you normally see in search engines.

If you are really struggling to find something using DDG, you can even use the !g bang, which uses the Google Search engine. Although we are trying to move away from the Google search engine, it’s still handy to use every now and then.

Like Google, DDG shows you ads within the search results. The difference being however, you can turn them off completely! This mean you don’t have to block ads on DDG using an ad blocker. It’s right there in the settings for you toggle on and off as you like.

Adverts is how DDG makes money in order to continue running, so if you decide to keep them on to support DDG, you can find the following information on how they maintain your privacy.

We make our money from private ads on our search engine. On other search engines, ads are based on profiles compiled about you using your personal information like search, browsing, and purchase history. Since we don’t collect that information, search ads on DuckDuckGo are based on the search results page you are viewing, not on you as a person. For example, if you search for cars, we’ll show you ads about cars.Learn more.

StartPage

StartPage is a very interesting proposition. It uses the Google’s search engine to provide your results, but adds a privacy layer over the top. How does it do this? Well, the developers pay Google to use their search results.

What this means for you is you get the fast and accurate results of Google, but have a little bit of privacy in between. StartPage does this by not collecting personal data on your or your device, also known as fingerprinting.

The results look very familiar to Google, with the first top section dedicated to Ads. There is no option to block ads on StartPage, so they must be blocked with a browser add on.

Some users are critical of the recent sale of StartPage to an advertising company. For those looking for a privacy focused search engine, it’s sale to an advertising company does mean StartPage has cross purposes. Advertisers make money by targeting ads to you, so tread carefully.

StartPage is a great option for those of you looking for something a little less Google but still miss the accuracy of the Google search engine. This really is the best of both worlds.

Searx.me

Searx.me is purely open source. This is a massive plus for those looking to get the most private search engine possible. Open source means the code can, and is, publicly available and able to be scrutinized by anyone.

It also means you can download the code and host it yourself, effectively making your own search engine that only you can use. Whilst we do not cover how to do that in this article, it is nice to know the option is available to us.

To use Searx, we need to find a publicly hosted instance of the search engine. There are many. Simply head to https://searx.space/ to find a list of providers. Once you settle on one you like, either save that link or make it your default search engine in your browser.

From there, the search engine page looks like any other search engine. There are no ads or tracking going on.

One of the downsides of SearX is deciding what instance to use. Users may rightly question if the provider is trustworthy, or if they might be intercepting your traffic, by being a man-in-the-middle. For this reason, a lot of SearX users host the code and search engine themselves.

Qwant

The last privacy focused search engine we are checking out is Qwant. Qwant is based in the EU, France specifically, and aims to strictly adhere to the strong privacy legislation that the EU has.

Qwant protects users privacy by routing reqeusts for data through it’s own servers first, much like a proxy. This means the web servers you are browsing can not see information about you such as how you arrived on the website, what browser you are using, among other pieces of data.

While Qwant uses it’s own indexer, it also leverages Bing from time to time. This is not ideal for those looking to move away from the big tech companies. Qwant also uses Bing’s ad network to serve you privacy respecting ads in the search results.

Overall, Qwant is another decent privacy based search engine for your consideration. It is a solid choice, especially for those in the EU, however there are no significant features over other engines previously discussed.

The Best Privacy Search Engine?

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The winner is DuckDuckGo. For a few reasons.

What is great about the privacy search engine landscape is that there is now plenty of options. Our suggestion is to try them all out for a period of time, such as a few weeks, to really determine which helps you navigate the web as efficiently as possible.

We hope this article gave you a bit more information on your next search engine.

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