It’s hard to find a search engine that is both efficient and not committed to selling your information. Fortunately, they do exist, and there are many to choose from.
Here are some of the best private search engines available that won’t use you as a product.
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What better way to start this list than the default search engine for Tor browser? The US-based DuckDuckGo is a fantastic choice for anyone who wants to keep their privacy intact while searching the internet.
DuckDuckGo does not sell any personal information, because it never stores it in the first place. If DuckDuckGo is asked to hand over data by the government, it will comply ; However, since they don’t store any information, it would be a very sparse database.
Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t sell your data, it needs alternative ways to generate income. It shows you ads, but the ads are related to what you just searched for. They don’t track your searches to create an ad-based profile for you.
Unfortunately, DuckDuckGo uses Yahoo search results. This means that those who are used to effective Google search results may find DuckDuckGo a bit lackluster.
If you prefer a search engine that’s more like Google, try the Netherlands-based Startpage. It uses Google search results which is great if you find that DuckDuckGo results are missing. Startpage achieves this by paying Google for its search results and then using them for its own service that doesn’t collect your information.
Startpage also takes great care with search recommendations. Typically, a search engine will recommend search terms as you type based on what others are looking for. However, this requires the search engine to collect personal information, which Startpage does not support.
Instead, Startpage matches your search against dictionary terms, Wikipedia, or general expressions that contain your search results. This allows Startpage to help you find what you are looking for without resorting to the collection of previous searches.
Startpage uses a cookie on your browser to save your preferences. If you prefer it not to have created a cookie, Startpage offers an alternative: a custom URL that loads your settings when clicked. This means that even the most paranoid internet user can simply bookmark the URL without leaving a trace on your PC.
Anonymous search is one thing, but what if you can also visit the pages without revealing your information? This is what Startpage does to ensure the confidentiality of your information. If you click on “Anonymous View” next to any search result, Startpage will route your traffic through a proxy server, so you will never reveal your identity to the website. This makes Startpage one of the best anonymized search engines available.
MetaGer is a German-based, privacy-focused search engine. Like Startpage, MetaGer also uses proxy server technology to hide your location when you visit a website.
When you search for a term on MetaGer, you will notice an additional option under each result called “Open anonymously”. When you click on it, MetaGer will set up a proxy server and run the website you want through it. Because MetaGer is the source of your query, your visit remains anonymous.
Unfortunately, MetaGer is pretty straightforward in settings and options, and it uses Scopia and Bing for its search results. However, unlike some search engines, MetaGer operates as a non-profit organization supported by donations. This is good news for anyone who won’t trust a for-profit business.
Qwant is a France-based search engine packed with features. However, some of these features require your location or personal information. This means that it is not an ideal choice for people who want the utmost privacy.
Despite that, if you want a search engine that has it all but doesn’t store your search history, Qwant is the best free private search engine for you .
You can spot a wide array of features the moment you load its homepage. Qwant has a music search engine, a “Junior” version for children, a Maps function and news at the bottom of the page. Based on my experience, the news seemed to be somewhat local in my city which may signal a location tracking . However, it could also have been a coincidence.
You can also activate “Qoz”, a form of currency that accumulates as you search. The accumulated Qoz turns into a donation to charity at the end of each month – a pleasant side effect of using Qwant.
All of these features raise a question: how does Qwant perform these features while respecting your privacy? For the Qoz feature, Qwant says they don’t track what you’re looking for, how many times you’ve searched. For some, this amount of tracking is enough to deter them from using the feature. Fortunately, you can turn off Qoz if you don’t like your searches counting.
However, if you don’t mind a bit of extra tracking in exchange for a few extra features, Qwant fills a niche without selling your information. This makes Qwant a nice “middle point” between the humble, privacy-friendly search engines and the extravagant, powerful, but financially motivated ones.
You may have noticed a trend with previous search engines where they rely on other, more powerful search engines for results. If this is a major problem for you, you may prefer a search engine that generates its own results.
This is what Mojeek, a UK-based search engine, does best. Instead of using someone else’s search engine, Mojeek uses theirs to ensure your privacy is respected. Therefore, the search results you get will not be perfect; after all, Mojeek faces competition that has been around for years!
Despite this, Mojeek is the best private web search engine for results that aren’t swayed by a bigger business. Mojeek themselves call their search results “independent and unbiased,” which should resonate with people who don’t want big companies shaping their browsing experience.
Start page vs DuckDuckGo
The two big giants of the private search world are Startpage and DuckDuckGo. We’ve already covered what they can do on their own, but how do they stack up against each other?
If you like the idea of a built-in proxy for anonymous browsing, the winner is Startpage . Its ability to load a proxy server in moments and view the webpage in secret is extremely valuable for people with privacy concerns.
Additionally, Startpage seemed to perform better overall. This is probably due to the fact that Startpage uses Google’s search algorithms, while DuckDuckGo has to rely on Yahoo.
However, DuckDuckGo wins in one category: it’s open source . Unlike Startpage which locks its search behind proprietary code, you can check for yourself if DuckDuckGo is as private as they claim. DuckDuckGo’s GitHub page has all of its code, accessible to anyone who wants to compile it.
As a result, Startpage’s search results and the built-in proxy server make it a great private search engine. On the flip side, DuckDuckGo bares everything bare so you can see what’s going on under the hood. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide which is the best search engine.
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The best private search engines for your needs
If you care about privacy, you’ll be happy to know that there are many search engines that respect your private data. Not only that, but they each bring something new to the table, which means there is a search engine for everyone’s needs.