4 of the Best Search Engines For Privacy

A gate showing the word "Private".

For the past several years, online privacy has been a prominent theme. Google, in particular, dominates almost all aspects of the Internet, which considering its business model, isn’t compatible with user privacy. As such, many are looking for Google alternatives, especially when it comes to search engines.

In this post, we look at some of the best search engines that focus on privacy first and foremost. Before this, we also discuss why you’d want to choose a more private search engine in the first place.

Why You Should Choose a More Private Search Engine

When it comes to search engine usage, Google dominates. In fact, it’s not just in search, but for browser usage, cloud-based desktop publishing, and much more. However, Google’s business model doesn’t put your privacy or data first.

Google thrives on monetizing the data of its users to turn a profit. As the saying goes, “Free often doesn’t mean free.” In other words, you are the product.

This has bled into more mainstream user’s thoughts, and now there is a groundswell of opposition to Google’s preferred business practices.

Let’s take a look at the search engines that are focused on privacy. They are not presented in any certain order, so feel free to jump around and investigate those that catch your eye.

1. DuckDuckGo

Probably the most famous of the privacy-focused search engines, DuckDuckGo is the poster child of privacy. Its search results are collated from a number of sources, including Yahoo!, Wolfram Alpha, and its own DuckDuckBot crawler.

The DuckDuckGo home page.

However, this shouldn’t have any privacy implications, as your data isn’t passed to third parties. Even so, clicking links to external sources, such as YouTube videos in search, will obviously be out of DuckDuckGo’s control.

To generate income, DuckDuckGo uses ads and affiliate-linking to sites such as Amazon, but all ads are clearly demarcated. What’s more, the affiliate linking doesn’t contain any personal info, so your search results are safe.

2. StartPage

If you really need to access Google search results, the best pick for you is StartPage. StartPage has the benefit of replicating Google’s search results by sending your searches to Google, then displaying the results for you. Google doesn’t know it was you – all it knows is that StartPage requested the information, which doesn’t tie back to you in any way.

StartPage also uses top-end SSL encryption and doesn’t use cookies or keep track of IP addresses or searches. It searches with all the power of Google but without the intrusiveness. One of my favorite features is the option to let you search by proxy, so even your browsing within websites can’t be tracked when you visit them.

best-search-engine-for-privacy-startpage-x

In a testament to their seriousness about keeping your data private, StartPage even removed Yahoo from their search results when it was unveiled that the company had willingly helped the NSA snoop on Yahoo account holders. Good on you, StartPage!

3. Searx

Next up, Searx is an open-source “metasearch” engine run by volunteers. This means there are no ads, affiliate links, or any other “trackable” elements.

The Searx search results.

The difference between Searx and other search engines lies in how it’s distributed. The developers encourage users to run their own server, which means you’ll have almost 100 instances to choose from.

A list of Searx online instances.

Once you get to a search page, the results are mixed. The look is functional, and you aren’t going to get the same quality of results as other search engines. However, it’s private, free, and worth your time if you’re a “Do-It-Yourself” app builder.

4. Qwant

The Qwant search engine.

Our final Google alternative is Qwant. It’s a French company that looks to provide privacy and style at once. We’d argue it’s the better looking of all search engines, although its privacy is more on our radar.

A Qwant search result.

It uses its own indexing to provide search results but also uses Bing in some cases. The business model is built around ads and affiliate linking, using the Bing ads network. In our tests, we even saw ads for Google products and services, which somewhat goes against the “spirit” of the whole private browsing movement.

Qwant results showing Google advertisements.

Even so, Qwant is a solid and private search engine that even offers a child-friendly version. As such, it’s worth checking out – especially if you’re a French speaker.

Wrapping Up

When it comes to search privacy, practically any company is going to be better than Google at protecting yours. For the greatest level of privacy, creating your own instance of Searx is your best bet. However, this isn’t for everyone. You’d also be sacrificing the feature-richness of search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Qwant. As a result, you should choose the solution that suits you.

If you’re interested in how we trade privacy for access to products and services, we’ve previously published a great post on this very topic. Has this article inspired you to protect your privacy more? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Tom Rankin Tom Rankin

Tom Rankin is a quality content writer for WordPress, tech, and small businesses. When he's not putting fingers to keyboard, he can be found taking photographs, writing music, playing computer games, and talking in the third-person.

6 comments

  1. “To generate income, DuckDuckGo uses ads and affiliate-linking to sites such as Amazon, but all ads are clearly demarcated”

    It should also be noted that because DDG doesn’t harvest user data, the ads they display are *randomly selected*. Unlike with Google (and Facebook, for that matter), where the ads are *chosen specifically for you* because they know who you are due to their harvesting of your identifiable data.

  2. I think everyone should try different search engines and not be reliant on Google. I have been using dropicon.com which serves me well.

  3. Good article, Tom, but remember that Startpage was bought out by System1, a marketing company. I was using it as my main search engine until that happened, then I switched to DuckDuckGo.

    1. That’s a good point, John. I’d expect readers to carry out some more research on the right option for them after finishing this post. I’m a DuckDuckGo user too, and think they’re by far the best option for private browsing.

  4. I was so happy when I first started using Google back in the day when AltaVista (which returned more ads than results) was the only alternative. As the years went on and I became aware of Google’s snooping, I switched to DuckDuckGo and have been using it ever since. I’m very thankful they came along. I try my best not to share anything I don’t have to. Data mining strips us bare of our privacy – there’s no sense in making it easy for them.

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