Google Search, the world’s most popular search engine, collects information about everything you search for. This data is then combined with the trove of other data Google collects about you via its other products and services and third-party apps and websites that contain Google tracking to build a detailed profile of your online activity.
Not only is this data used to build an advertising profile but in some instances, Google hands over users’ data to law enforcement based on the terms they searched for.
In addition to the privacy concerns, Google heavily editorializes its search results by shadowbanning and suppressing some stories, letting one perspective dominate the search results for some topics, and “fact-checking” its search results. It has also been accused of boosting certain outlets in its search results, maintaining search blacklists, and censoring some of its autosuggest results.
If you’re tired of Google’s mass data collection and editorialization of its search results, consider one of these private search engines. Some collect no personal data at all while others collect a minimal amount to return their search results.
Studies on some of these private search engines have also shown that their auto-complete suggestions and the domains that appear in their search results are far more diverse than those offered by Google.
Take a look at the private search engines below and tell your friends and family to start using them instead of Google Search.
A privacy-focused search engine from the creators of the popular Brave browser that’s based in the US.
It vows to never track you, your searches, or your clicks and claims that this stance makes it impossible for Brave Search to share, sell, or lose your data.
Brave Search does temporarily process IP addresses to detect and prevent bots but this data isn’t retained and is deleted within seconds. If you change settings in Brave Search, it also uses anonymous cookies to remember your preferences. These anonymous cookies use the same cookie names and set of cookie values for all users to prevent them being used to identify anyone.
By default, Brave also uses your IP address once for each location-based query and collects anonymous usage metrics but this data collection can be enabled or disabled at any time.
Brave Search has built its own index from scratch which means it can offer fully independent search results that don’t rely on Big Tech or other third parties. Its results are also constantly refined via anonymous, opt-in community contributions.
Over 90% of queries are answered via this search index but Brave Search will anonymously fetch the remaining results from Google and Bing. You can see the percentage of search results that came from Brave’s index for a specific query by clicking or tapping the “Info” link on any results page. You can also view the overall percentage of search results that came from Brave’s index in the settings panel.
Some of Brave Search’s top features include its search shortcuts (which can be used to quickly navigate to search results on specific sites), visual autosuggest, search filters (that let you filter by format, date, country, and more), extra search filter parameters for images and videos, featured snippets, and shelves that highlight recent news and videos.
A search engine that’s based in the Netherlands and claims to be “the world’s most private search engine.”
Startpage serves Google Search results while promising to protect user privacy. It vows to not log search queries or IP addresses (except when it detects automated search requests that rapidly submit more queries to its servers than a normal human user) and to not serve any tracking or identifying cookies. Additionally, Startpage says it will never comply with any voluntary surveillance program and is fully compliant with the European Union’s (EU’s) General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Anonymized search queries are sent to Google to return search results to users and some non-identifying system information is shared with Google to retrieve the Google Adsense links that monetize Startpage. Startpage also anonymously determines the frequency of popular search keywords as part of its anti-abuse measures. Additionally, it uses anonymous analytics to measure overall traffic and collect information about user operating systems, browsers, and languages without associating it with individual users.
One of Startpage’s unique search features is “Anonymous View” which lets you visit the websites in search results through a Startpage proxy. This proxy makes it appear as if Startpage is visiting the website and hides your IP address, masks your browser fingerprint, blocks all non-Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) connections, and guards against trackers.
Other features include Instant Answers, search suggestions, search filters (that let you filter by formate, date, and country), a family filter toggle, and themes.
StartPage has a desktop browser extension that sets Startpage as your default search engine, blocks cookies and trackers, prevents fingerprinting, and displays a privacy score for the websites you visit. The extension is available for Chrome and Firefox.
One thing to note is that Startpage received significant investment from the US ad tech company System 1 in 2019. However, in a statement about the investment, Startpage said user privacy is still the company’s number one priority and that the Startpage founders still have full control over all of Startpage’s privacy implementations.
The most popular Google Search alternative which has been growing consistently for years and is used to conduct billions of searches per day.
DuckDuckGo is based in the US and vows to never collect, store, or share any of your personal information. It does save searches but claims that these are saved in a non-personally identifiable way because it doesn’t store user Internet Protocol (IP) addresses or unique user agent strings. The company says this non-personal search data is used “to improve things like misspellings.”
One of the most unique aspects of DuckDuckGo is its “bangs” search shortcuts. These bangs let you quickly navigate to search results on tens of thousands of specific sites including Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha.
It also has plenty of search filters that let you filter your search results by format (image, video, news, etc), date, country, and more. There are also additional filters for images and videos that make it easy to filter these results by more specific parameters.
Other features include search result knowledge panels, a recent news shelf, a video shelf, quick links to related searches, and custom display options (such as dark mode and custom font sizes).
An open-source, metasearch engine that aggregates results from multiple search engines while not storing information about its users.
Searx protects your privacy by mixing your queries with searches on other platforms without storing search data. It also doesn’t store user IP addresses.
A standout feature is the ability to pick the data sources you want to be included in your search results. More than 100 data sources are available in categories such as general, files, images, information technology (IT), maps, music, news, science, social media, and video.
You can customize the look and feel of Searx by selecting your preferred language, autocomplete source, theme, and more.
Since it’s open-source, you can host your own Searx instance. Alternatively, you can use one of the many public instances that are listed on the Searx website.
A UK based search engine that’s private, unbiased, and hosted from the UK’s greenest data center.
Mojeek was the first privacy-oriented search engine with a no tracking policy which it introduced in 2006. To maintain user privacy, it promises no tracking or profiling of your search history, IP address, or click data. It doesn’t place any cookies by default and if cookies are required to provide services, such as setting your personal preferences, Mojeek will ask for your consent. Additionally, it has a specific page that shows you any active cookies and makes it easy to delete them.
The only data Mojeek stores is aggregate non-personal search data and anonymous logs which contain time of visit, page requested, a two-letter code that indicates the country of origin, and possibly referral data.
It has a huge index of almost four billion pages which helps it provide independent, bias-free results. Mojeek says its algorithm doesn’t support any particular view and ranks pages based on their relevancy to the search term.
Search results can be filtered by organized into web, images, and news categories and filtered by region. Mojeek also has extensive search settings options that let you set the number of results per domain, set ranking preferences (that take into account when a page was last modified or crawled), and more.
Mobile apps that make it easy to search via Mojeek are available for both Android and iOS.
A private search engine that’s been active for more than a decade and has a US founder.
Gibiru’s mission is to provide its users with “access to information outside of Big Tech’s censorship bubble and do so privately.”
To provide access to information that’s usually censored by Big Tech, Gibiru has two sets of results – “All Results” and “Censored Content.”
All Results displays a set of results similar to those on other search engines while Censored Content displays an alternative set of results that don’t rank highly for the term in Google Search and is used
Gibiru results can be filtered by web, images, videos, and news. For video results, you can also rank the results by upload date and length and filter the results by specific video lengths.
A private, decentralized, blockchain-powered search engine that’s based in Canada and has an integrated cryptocurrency.
Presearch’s search indexes are built and hosted by a decentralized network of node operators. Search queries are sent to a node gateway server that anonymizes the search query (by removing the user’s IP address, device information, and any tracking codes) and passed to a node which completes the search and passes the results back to the gateway which creates a result set for the user.
Node operators and users are rewarded with the integrated PRE cryptocurrency while advertisers can stake PRE tokens to display their ads against specific keywords.
While searches are anonymized, Presearch may collect your IP address and information about your device, browser, type, and operating system. Additionally, to receive cryptocurrency rewards, you’ll need to create a user account and search while signed in which may lead to the collection of information such as location and time of last search.
Presearch’s features include search result knowledge panels, a news shelf, a video shelf, quick links to related articles and related searches, and a quick link for sharing your search results.
Results can be filtered to display just images, videos, or news. Presearch also has quick links for conducting your search via other sites.
It has a mobile browser app for Android and desktop browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that set Presearch as the default search engine and start page.
If you're tired of censorship and dystopian threats against civil liberties, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.