Are you looking for the finest private search engines that respect your privacy and do not collect data about you? We divulge all pertinent information.
Google tracks everything you do online, including the websites you visit, the people you connect with, and the things you may be interested in buying. When you use Google services—and a variety of associated services, some of which seem to be unrelated to Google—information about your interactions is gathered and kept in the form of a user profile.
Google’s search engine is no exception. When you input a search query, Google ties it to your identifiers and adds it to your search history and online profile.
While this is beneficial in that it helps Google to produce more relevant search results, it seems intrusive to many users. This is particularly true in today’s environment when we rely on search engines to answer almost all of our daily inquiries, even some that are sensitive.
Fortunately, if you’re worried about Google, Bing, and other search engines monitoring your search terms, there are workarounds. Numerous firms noticed the need for search engines that provide accurate results without jeopardizing users’ privacy and developed more discrete versions.
In this piece, we’ll disclose the top private search engines and go into further depth about why you may want to ditch Google.
What to seek out in the most reputable private search engines
Once you begin your search, you’ll discover that there are a plethora of private alternatives to Google. However, they are not all comparable. For instance, some are not as secure as they promise to be, while others provide a subpar user experience. The following criteria were used to compile our ranking of the top private search engines:
- Maintain your privacy (no data collection)
- Provides relevant search results
- Has an intuitive user interface
- Provides configuration choices for a more personalized experience
It’s worth mentioning that some private search engines are true search engines in the sense that they crawl websites to gather the data necessary to provide search results. This provides more privacy since they are not connected to Google or Bing, but may not provide the best results.
Others, termed “metasearch engines,” function as a kind of mediator between the user and Google or other websites, allowing them to provide a more comprehensive experience. Some of the sites on this list combine the two and use their crawlers in addition to getting results from Google and Bing.
The most effective private search engines
Here is our selection of the top alternative search engines for Google:
DuckDuckGo is the greatest private search engine available.
DuckDuckGo is very popular among privacy lovers and is used by the Tor browser as its default search engine. The service, which is situated in the United States, has its crawler (dubbed DuckDuckBot) but also aggregates data from over 400 additional sources. Among them are Bing, Oath (formerly Yahoo), and Wikipedia.
While this search engine does remember searches, they are not associated with any particular user:
We also save searches, but again, not in a personally identifiable way as we do not store IP addresses or unique User agent strings. We use aggregate, non-personal search data to improve things like misspellings.
DuckDuckGo offers adverts for affiliate websites in the right sidebar, which is a bit less forceful than Google’s top-of-the-page placement of ads. It also makes revenue from sites like Amazon and eBay, so you may want to be cautious if such appear often in search results:
Similarly, we may add an affiliate code to some eCommerce sites (e.g. Amazon & eBay) that results in small commissions being paid back to DuckDuckGo when you make purchases at those sites.
For our test search queries, the service returned anticipated results, including one for local services. This begs the issue of how DuckDuckGo determines the user’s geographic location. According to DuckDuckGo’s CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, in a Quora response, the search engine does utilize your IP address to offer local results. Although your IP address is not stored, it is visible when you make a search request. Essentially, it is utilized to determine your approximate position and then removed.
The UI of DuckDuckGo is very similar to that of Google and other prominent search engines. You may do a general online search or narrow your results to photos, videos, news, maps, definitions, or shopping. Adult content and a period for results are among the filters.
A variety of configuration options are available to help you tailor your search experience. For instance, you may activate endless scrolling and auto-suggest, as well as specify the links that open in a new tab.
Certain doubts have been expressed concerning the validity of DuckDuckGo’s privacy assurances. The allegations stem from the fact that the company’s CEO formerly ran the now-defunct social networking site Names Database (legally Opobox).
The firm was then sold to Classmates.com for a multi-million dollar payment, along with all remaining user data. Weinberg’s engagement with the Names Database seems to violate the ideals upon which DuckDuckGo is built, therefore the suspicions.
I took these privacy ideas to DuckDuckGo, though, and realized in the case of Web search the minimum amount of information needed is actually zero.
DuckDuckGo is accessible via your browser, but it also provides iOS and Android applications, as well as a browser plugin for Microsoft Edge.
MetaGer is situated in Germany and is run by the non-profit SuMa-eV. It is available in three languages: English, German, and Spanish. MetaGer has its own web crawlers and indexers, but its primary function is as a metasearch engine, querying up to 50 search engines, including Yahoo and Bing. During our testing, the majority of the top results were from Bing.
The software that powers this search engine is open source, which means that its source code may be seen and audited by anybody. MetaGer maintains a.onion domain that is accessible through the Tor network.
Apart from MetaGer, SuMa-eV has a use case in another Google-dominated field. Its map service and route planner (Maps.MetaGer.de) do not keep track of or monitor users’ whereabouts.
MetaGer strives to provide users with diversity when selecting which results to show. As such, it does not consider the number of click-throughs a page gets when determining its ranking. Donations, membership fees, and non-targeted advertising on results pages comprise the business strategy.
For a period of up to 96 hours, your IP address is saved along with a timestamp (four days). This is because MetaGer imposes a restriction on the number of searches per IP address during a certain period and requires a mechanism to monitor this.
MetaGer does gather data for the non-targeted advertising component of its approach. It offers marketers shortened IP addresses (which may include approximate location data) and user agent information, such as the browser and operating system used to search. None of this information can be used to uniquely identify a user.
I ran various queries through the search engines and found that the results were relevant, except for a local search phrase that returned scattered results.
MetaGer provides an additional degree of privacy by allowing you to access a web page anonymously. In this manner, the search engine functions as a proxy and conceals your IP address from the website to which you are linking.
While the MetaGer interface is not as sophisticated as some of the others on our list, it is still rather simple to use. While search choices are limited in comparison to some other platforms, you may search the full web or only images or commerce. Additionally, you may filter by date or language or use a safe search (to filter out adult content).
The settings page does not have a large number of other choices. It simply displays the filter and allows you to choose which search engines, like Bing, are utilized to generate results.
MetaGer has a Firefox add-on, and Chrome and Edge users may make MetaGer their default search engine. Android users may install a native application.
Qwant is headquartered in France and offers services in over a dozen languages, including English, French, and Italian. This search engine does not monitor you or your device and makes no guarantees about not logging into your search history.
We don’t use any tracking device (pixel, fingerprinting…). We don’t collect and we don’t store any history or your searches.
This is a metasearch engine that mainly retrieves and displays Bing search results. It does, however, have its indexing capabilities.
The company’s revenue strategy is based on affiliate relationships with sites such as eBay and Trip Advisor, which means that for certain queries, these sites may have an unfair advantage in terms of ranking at the top of results pages.
While the majority of test searches returned anticipated results, local search results were often unsuitable. Qwant’s UI is one-of-a-kind and visually beautiful, and it allows you to search the web or filter your results to news, photographs, social media, or videos. Additionally, you may filter results based on their age (“freshness”).
The settings panel allows you to configure your homepage, including the display of hot topics, news, and social media updates, as well as the ability to launch links and videos in new tabs.
Qwant also offers goods that compete with those of Google and other firms, such as Qwant Maps, Qwant Music, Qwant Boards (similar to Pinterest), and Qwant Junior (for children ages 6–13).
Qwant has Chrome and Firefox extensions, as well as iOS and Android applications. If you want a speedier, lighter search engine, for instance, if you are using an outdated web browser, Qwant Lite was created for you.
Mojeek is distinct from the other tools on this list in that it does not depend on results from other search engines. While the majority of private search engines use their crawlers to some degree, they get the majority of their results from Google and Bing. Mojeek is entirely reliant on crawlers and does not utilize conventional search engines at all. This makes it more ideal for those who want to avoid dealing with such firms entirely.
The disadvantage is that your results will be less refined than those from other private search engines since Mojeek’s algorithms cannot compete with those of decades-old search engines. Having said that, Mojeek does claim an index of more than 3 billion web pages, which is growing at a breakneck pace.
The provider never gathers any personal information about its users, including IP addresses, click-activity, or search history.
According to the company’s privacy statement, it was the first search engine to assert a no-tracking policy. It even provides a link to an old version of their privacy statement from March 2006.
Mojeek does save certain basic logs, such as timestamps, URLs, and referral data (if relevant), but none of these can be linked to an individual user. The IP address of the user is substituted with a two-letter country code.
These logs contain the time of visit, page requested, possibly referral data, and located in a separate log browser information. IP addresses are not recorded, instead the IP address is replaced with a simple two letter code indicating the visitors country of origin. By doing this, Mojeek removes any possibility of tracking or identifying any particular user.
Mojeek offered relevant results for the majority of inquiries, however, local search results were often unhelpful. You may filter your results by region, but your choices are restricted to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and the European Union.
This search engine’s interface is quite straightforward, and the results are presented in an easy-to-read style. Mojeek is a for-profit venture backed by investors that believe in the mission, which means you will enjoy an ad-free experience. However, the firm has indicated that this may change in the future.
Apart from filtering by area, you may also limit your results to photographs or news on the results page. Additionally, you may do an advanced search, which enables you to set criteria, such as adding or removing certain terms. Mojeek’s settings menu includes choices for altering your site’s language (to English, German, or French) and theme color to light or dark.
Additionally, there are several options for customizing your search results page. Among other possibilities, they include altering the number of results per page and domain, filtering by the latest changed or crawled date, and filtering by document size.
Additionally, you may customize your location. By default, this is configured to detect your nation automatically, but you may change it to any country you desire. Having said that, it did not seem as if this affected local search results.
Apps are available for iOS and Android, while Firefox and Opera users may install browser extensions. Simply copy and paste a small bit of code to add a Mojeek search box to your website.
Searx is an open-source metasearch engine that is accessible on GitHub. Because this is a non-profit endeavor, you will not see advertisements at the top of your search results page. Although there is a dedicated Searx website (searx.me), this search engine is available on a variety of different websites, as it is simple to operate it yourself.
Having said that, if you’re considering running your instance for personal use, keep in mind that your search queries will not be combined with those of other users. This results in a loss of anonymity. Additionally, if you use a non-official instance of searx, you are entrusting the administrator of that instance with your data.
Searx has a proxy option that helps you to maintain your anonymity when you go to a website. The UI is clear and uncomplicated. Although the search engine returned adequate results, it is experiencing connectivity challenges with Google and other sources, resulting in the delivery of errors for some queries.
To modify your default search settings, click Advanced Settings directly below the search box. For instance, you may do a web search or look for files, photographs, or news, among other things.
When you select Preferences in the top right-hand corner, you’ll find a plethora of other configurable settings. For instance, the General tab allows you to adjust the search engine’s behavior and the structure of your search engine results pages. Additionally, the Plugins tab has toggle switches for enabling or disabling certain add-ons such as HTTPS rewriting and infinite scrolling.
Searx is available as an Android application and a Firefox add-on.
Startpage is the greatest private search engine available.
Startpage (formerly known as IXquick) is a Dutch-based metasearch engine. It retrieves search results from Google and presents them to the user. As such, it effectively serves as a proxy for users to access Google search results anonymously. Recently, Startpage was declared the greatest search engine accessible, defeating Google.
The service does not collect any information about you, including your search searches. The brief form of its privacy statement is as follows:
Startpage.com doesn’t log or share your personal information. We don’t track you. We don’t profile you. Period.
To utilize the search engine as a proxy for anonymous web browsing, just select Anonymous View next to a result.
Startpage’s user interface is quite similar to that of Google. The UI is almost the same, except for the reduced number of choices. You may do a web search or seek for photographs or videos, and then filter the results by their age. Additionally, you may run an advanced search using options similar to those found in Google’s advanced search.
As predicted, the search results are more similar to those of Google than those of the other services on our list, so if you’re searching for a private Google, this is a good option. Local search results, on the other hand, were an exception. A test local search returned some results that were near to our present location, but not as close as DuckDuckGo’s results.
This implies that Startpage may be using a reduced version of your IP address to get an extremely approximate location and provide acceptable local results. This is, however, speculative and has not been verified by the corporation.
The settings for the Startpage include language and design choices, as well as toggles for search tools like recommendations, maps, and Wikipedia Instant Answers. Additionally, there are a few privacy and security options, which include family filtering, virus scanning, and connecting only to particular servers.
Startpage offers iOS and Android applications, as well as Chrome and Firefox browser extensions.
Swisscows is a Swiss-based company that offers services in eight languages, including English, Italian, and Spanish. It has a partnership with Bing, which means that the majority of search results come from that search engine. Swisscows, on the other hand, is unique in the manner it produces outcomes. It makes use of semantic technologies to identify which results are most valuable to the user.
It does not save or monitor any personally identifiable information about users, such as their IP address or search queries. The firm takes pleasure in the fact that all servers are hosted in Switzerland, a nation renowned for its strict data protection legislation.
Swisscows may be a fantastic option if you’re seeking a private search engine for your family. By screening out adult information such as pornography and violence, it aspires to be a child-friendly search engine.
This firm is supported by contributions from users and companies, which means you will not see advertisements in your search results.
The UI is sleek and intuitive. Apart from general online searches, you may do specialized searches for photos, videos, or music. You may refine your search by country or sort results chronologically.
Swisscows also includes a few other utilities, including a translator that functions similarly to Google Translate. Then there’s “Digest,” a tool that allows you to drop a file or a link and quickly determine its contents. Although this is a premium application, you may test it out through the Swisscows search interface.
Generally, search queries returned anticipated results. Although the listings for local phrases were irrelevant, they were at least from the correct nation when using the region selection.
In contrast to the other search engines on our list, there is no dedicated options panel for customizing your experience.
What data does Google collect and why?
Google, Bing, and other prominent search engines save your search phrases and other information. What may be recorded is as follows:
- Your IP address
- Your location
- Unique browser, app, and device identifiers
- Search terms
When you consider how often you input a search phrase into Google daily, it’s clear to understand how simple it would be for the corporation to develop a profile that closely matches what you do daily. For instance, we often do searches on a variety of subjects about our personal life, such as:
- Individual products or stores
- Home services, such as plumbing or windows cleaning
- Banks and investments
- Places to eat
- Weekend activities
- Vacation destinations
- Directions to a friend’s house or event venue
- Things related to our kids (such as schools and activities)
- Medical issues we might be experiencing
… in addition to a slew of other items relating to our profession or company.
All of this data offers a goldmine for marketers. Advertisements are highly targeted toward us based on our online behavior, which is often extremely indicative of our offline behavior. Google and affiliate marketers can build a very precise profile of each of us and market to us appropriately.
Why is Google attempting to track an issue?
Certain individuals may find it beneficial to be presented adverts on websites, on social media platforms, and in emails that are customized to their individual preferences. Indeed, this is the fundamental foundation upon which Google and related firms defend their zealous internet surveillance. They often state something along the lines of “to better serve our customers” or “to provide a better user experience.”
What is occurring is that you, or at the very least your data, are being sold to marketers or other third parties for the highest offer. This is considered obtrusive and even creepy by many users. Apart from the fact that someone is gathering a wealth of information about you to determine the most effective way to offer you items and services, there are further ramifications of personalized advertising. Here are a few unsettling scenarios:
- You’re trying to show a coworker a work-related website, but it’s completely obscured by dating site advertisements.
- You’ve been looking at engagement rings and see that relevant advertisements are appearing on all of your home gadgets, so ruining the surprise for your significant other.
- While you’re working from a popular coffee shop, embarrassing medical-related advertisements begin to appear on websites.
Additionally, there are more significant consequences to having your search history disclosed through targeted advertising or another method. For instance, some individuals, such as those in abusive relationships or those who live in repressed areas, may face substantial injury.
Because all of this data is housed in one location, it also makes it a target for hackers. Additionally, we must consider the possibility of human mistakes, which might result in the data being disclosed accidentally. For instance, in a 2006 lawsuit, AOL made public the search records of almost 650,000 of its customers. Although the lawsuit was resolved in 2013 with AOL agreeing to pay $5 million, that does not mean it may not happen again.
How to change your browser’s default search engine
If you’ve chosen to use one of the aforementioned search engines, you’ll undoubtedly want to maximize your convenience. If you presently have Google or Bing as your default search engine, changing it is typically straightforward, but the procedure is not always evident.
Simply follow the methods outlined below for your particular browser:
Here’s how to modify Chrome’s default search engine:
- Select Settings from the dropdown menu when you click the three dots menu symbol in the top right-hand corner of the screen.
- Scroll down to the Search engine section of the Settings screen.
- You should see multiple choices in the dropdown next to Search engine used in the address bar, including Google, Bing, and Yahoo! By default, the only private search engine on the list is DuckDuckGo. If this is the one you wish to use, click the option to pick it. This will replace Google as your default search engine. If you wish to change the default private search engine, go to the next step.
- To the right of Manage search engines, click the arrow.
- Select Add on the Manage search engines page.
- Complete the boxes on the page Edit search engine. In the example below, we’re going to create a Startpage. Enter the search engine’s name in the Search engine area. Enter the text shortcut you’ll use in the address bar in the Keyword box. In the last box, insert the search engine’s URL without the query. Simply type a search word in the search engine and replace it with ” percent s” to get this URL (without the quotation marks).
- Once all fields are completed, click Save.
- Under Manage search engines, the new search engine should now be available. Select Make default by clicking the three-dot symbol to the right of the search engine.
Here’s how to change Firefox’s default search engine:
- In the top right-hand corner, click the hamburger symbol.
- Navigate to Options > Search.
- You should see multiple choices in the dropdown under Default Search Engine, including Google, Bing, eBay, Twitter, and Wikipedia. As with Chrome, the default private search engine is DuckDuckGo. If you choose to utilize this one, just pick it and proceed. Proceed to the next step if you’d rather use a different private search engine.
- Continue scrolling down to One-Click Search Engines and selecting Find other search engines.
- You’ll be taken to the Firefox extensions page. Enter the search engine you want to use in the search area, for example, Qwant.
- Select the search engine from the results list and then click + Add to Firefox on the subsequent page.
- A confirmation window will appear to confirm the addition. Choose Add.
- Another popup window should open, requesting that you designate the search engine as your default. Select Yes.
- You may always return to Options > Search if you miss that confirmation. Now, under the dropdown menu for Default Search Engine, you should notice your newly added search engine.
This article will demonstrate how to change the default search engine in Microsoft Edge.
Here’s how to change your default search engine on Microsoft Edge:
- Navigate to the homepage of the search engine, for example, www.swisscows.com.
- Select Settings > Advanced by clicking the three dots (more actions) symbol in the top right-hand corner.
- Select Change search provider from the Address bar search drop-down menu.
- The search engine you browsed to in the first step should appear in the list, preceded by the term “discovered.” Choose it and then click Set as default.
Apple’s iOS (Safari)
Here’s how to modify Safari’s default search engine:
- It is not feasible to add more search engines to Safari’s default search engine list. DuckDuckGo is a built-in search engine, so if this is what you’re looking for, you’re in luck. Select DuckDuckGo from the Settings > Safari > Search Engine menu.
- If not, you may add your preferred search engine to your home screen for convenient access. Navigate to the homepage of the search engine to which you want to add it, for instance, www.searx.me.
- To add to the home screen, click the share icon, scroll down, and click Add to Home Screen. The search engine is now accessible on your home screen; thus, the next time you wish to search, click there rather than opening Safari.
Google Android (Chrome)
Here’s how to change your Android device’s default search engine:
- Conduct a search inside Chrome by visiting the website of the search engine you choose to use, for example, MetaGer. Please keep in mind that if you do not do a search, the search engine will not appear in the list in step 4 below.
- Select Settings from the three-dot menu symbol in the top right-hand corner.
- Select Search engine from the Basics menu.
- The search engine to which you browsed should be available here. Choose it from the list to make it your default.
Want to continue to utilize Google? Utilize a VPN
If you’re not willing to give up Google’s search engine entirely, you might consider utilizing a reliable VPN to protect yourself. A VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, encrypts all of your online traffic, rendering it unreadable to third parties such as your internet service provider or would-be hackers. Additionally, it tunnels your traffic via a secondary VPN server and changes your actual IP address with the VPN servers.
That server may be located anywhere in the world, and the IP address will be assigned to that location. Google and other destination websites will no longer see your actual IP address and location, but will instead see the VPN’s. Using a VPN in conjunction with incognito or private browsing mode is a fairly solid option for avoiding Google monitoring you.
Having said that, there is a slim possibility Google may still create a user profile using other identifiers, such as unique browser or device IDs. While some of these may be controlled via your browser or device settings, others, such as the IMEI number of a mobile phone, cannot. While Google informs consumers that these identifiers are used, it is somewhat ambiguous about how and when they are used. As such, your best defense is to avoid Google entirely, even if you use a VPN.
Additionally, it is not a terrible idea to utilize a VPN in conjunction with a private search engine. We’ve discovered a few ostensibly private search engines with dubious privacy rules that imply IP addresses may be utilized in some capacity. With a VPN, the private search engine sees just your VPN IP address, so there is no need to be concerned.
When choosing a VPN, consider one that has a history of preserving customer privacy, such as NordVPN. A real no-logging policy and security against data breaches are critical elements to look for.
How to delete the history of your Google searches
If you’ve chosen to use a more private search engine or to continue using Google while utilizing a VPN, there is one remaining issue. Google and other search engines will retain the data they have gathered about you to date.
You may delete much of that data by removing your activity. Even when Google deletes your data, it retains a little amount of information. For instance, if you remove your search history, the search word is deleted, but the fact that you looked for anything at that time is retained. However, Google is evasive regarding the amount of data preserved. This phrase is especially ambiguous:
Sometimes we retain certain information for an extended period of time to meet specific business needs or legal requirements.
You should, however, be able to remove the majority of your search history.
How to remove your Google history is as follows:
- Navigate to Google’s My Activity page and click Delete activity by in the left sidebar menu.
- The subsequent popup window allows you to choose the time period for which you wish to erase activity.
- After that, you must confirm the deletion. Choose Delete.
- That is all. A confirmation screen should now appear.
Note, you may also remove your activity directly from the Google homepage by navigating to Settings > Your data in Search and scrolling down to the section titled Delete your Search activity.
The issue is that if you continue to use Google, it will continue to collect information about you. As a result, you’ll wish to disable activity in the future. You’ll see a couple of boxes on the My Activity page, the left of which is for activity monitoring. Change the setting.
Ensure that both boxes are unchecked on the following screen. The first, if enabled, enables Google to monitor your activity on Chrome and other websites that make use of Google services. The second enables the business to save recordings of your voice and audio inputs for use with Google’s speech services. Most crucially, flip the off (gray) setting next to Web & App Activity.
Returning to the two boxes on the My Activity page, if you want to allow Google to continue recording your activity for whatever reason, you may utilize the right-hand box to choose the duration of the company’s storage: 18 months, three months, or until you manually erase it.