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[Source: This article was Published in itsfoss.com By   - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Jay Harris]

Brief: In this age of the internet, you can never be too careful with your privacy. Use these alternative search engines that do not track you.

Google – unquestionably being the best search engine out there, makes use of powerful and intelligent algorithms (including A.I. implementations) to let the users get the best out of a search engine with a personalized experience.

This sounds good until you start to live in a filter bubble. When you start seeing everything that ‘suits your taste’, you get detached from reality. Too much of anything is not good. Too much of personalization is harmful as well.

This is why one should get out of this filter bubble and see the world as it is. But how do you do that?

You know that Google sure as hell tracks a lot of information about your connection and the system when you perform a search and take an action within the search engine or use other Google services such as Gmail.

So, if Google keeps on tracking you, the simple answer would be to stop using Google for searching the web. But what would you use in place of Google? Microsoft’s Bing is no saint either.

So, to address the netizens concerned about their privacy while using a search engine, I have curated a list of privacy oriented alternative search engines to Google. 

Best 8 Privacy-Oriented Alternative Search Engines To Google

Do note that the alternatives mentioned in this article are not necessarily “better” than Google, but only focuses on protecting users privacy. Here we go!

1. DuckDuckGo

privacy oriented search engine duckduckgo

DuckDuckGo is one of the most successful privacy oriented search engines that stands as an alternative to Google. The user experience offered by DuckDuckGo is commendable. I must say – “It’s unique in itself”.

DuckDuckGo, unlike Google, utilizes the traditional method of “sponsored links” to display the advertisements. The ads are not focused on you but only the topic you are searching for – so there is nothing that could generate a profile of you in any manner – thereby respecting your privacy.

Of course, DuckDuckGo’s search algorithm may not be the smartest around (because it has no idea who you are!). And, if you want to utilize one of the best privacy oriented alternative search engines to Google, you will have to forget about getting a personalized experience while searching for something.

The search results are simplified with specific meta data’s. It lets you select a country to get the most relevant result you may be looking for. Also, when you type in a question or searching for a fix, it might present you with an instant answer (fetched from the source).

Although, you might miss quite a few functionalities (like filtering images by license) – that is an obvious trade-off to protect your privacy.

DuckDuckGo

Suggested read  ProtonMail: An Open Source Privacy-Focused Email Service Provider

2. Qwant

qwant best privacy oriented search engines

Qwant is probably one of the most loved privacy oriented search engines after DuckDuckGo. It ensures neutrality, privacy, and digital freedom while you search for something on the Internet.

If you thought privacy-oriented search engines generally tend to offer a very casual user experience, you need to rethink after trying out Qwant. This is a very dynamic search engine with trending topics and news stories organized very well. It may not offer a personalized experience (given that it does not track you) – but it does feel like it partially with a rich user experience offered to compensate that in a way.

Qwant is a very useful search engine alternative to Google. It lists out all the web resources, social feeds, news, and images on the topic you search for.

Qwant

3. Startpage

startpage best privacy oriented search engines

Startpage is a good initiative as a privacy-oriented search engine alternative to Google. However, it may not be the best one around. The UI is very similar to that of Google’s (while displaying the search results – irrespective of the functionalities offered). It may not be a complete rip-off but it is not very impressive – everyone has got their own taste.

To protect your privacy, it lets you choose it. You can either select to visit the web pages using the proxy or without it. It’s all your choice. You also get to change the theme of the search engine. Well, I did enjoy my switch to the “Night” theme. There’s an interesting option with the help of which you can generate a custom URL keeping your settings intact as well.

Startpage

4. Privatelee

privatelee best privacy oriented search engines

Privatelee is another kind of search engine specifically tailored to protect your online privacy. It does not track your search results or behavior in any way. However, you might get a lot of irrelevant results after the first ten matched results.

The search engine isn’t perfect to find a hidden treasure on the Internet but more for general queries. Privatelee also supports power commands – more like shortcuts – which helps you search for the exact thing in an efficient manner. It will save a lot of your time for pretty simple tasks such as searching for a movie on Netflix. If you were looking for a super fast privacy oriented search engine for common queries, Privatelee would be a great alternative to Google.

Privatelee

Suggested read  Librem 5 is a Security and Privacy Focused Smartphone Based on Linux

5. Swisscows

swisscows best privacy oriented search engines

Well, it isn’t dairy farm portfolio site but a privacy-oriented search engine as an alternative to Google. You may have known about it as Hulbee – but it has recently redirected its operation to a new domain. Nothing has really changed except for the name and domain of the search engine. It works the same way it was before as Hulbee.com.

Swisscows utilizes Bing to deliver the search results as per your query. When you search for something, you would notice a tag cloud on the left sidebar which is useful if you need to know about the related key terms and facts. The design language is a lot simpler but one of its kind among the other search engines out there. You get to filter the results according to the date but that’s about it – no more advanced options to tweak your search results. It utilizes a tile search technique (a semantic technology) to fetch the best results to your queries. The search algorithm makes sure that it is a family-friendly search engine with pornography and violence ruled out completely.

Swisscows

6. searX

searX best privacy oriented search engines

searX is an interesting search engine – which is technically defined as a “metasearch engine”. In other words, it utilizes other search engines and accumulates the results to your query in one place. It does not store your search data being an open source metasearch engine at the same time. You can review the source code, contribute, or even customize it as your own metasearch engine hosted on your server.

If you are fond of utilizing Torrent clients to download stuff, this search engine will help you find the magnet links to the exact files when you try searching for a file through searX. When you access the settings (preferences) for searX, you would find a lot of advanced things to tweak from your end. General tweaks include – adding/removing search engines, rewrite HTTP to HTTPS, remove tracker arguments from URL, and so on. It’s all yours to control. The user experience may not be the best here but if you want to utilize a lot of search engines while keeping your privacy in check, searX is a great alternative to Google.

searX

Suggested read  Free and Open Source Skype Alternative Ring 1.0 Released!

7. Peekier

peekier best privacy oriented search engines

Peekier is another fascinating privacy oriented search engine. Unlike the previous one, it is not a metasearch engine but has its own algorithm implemented. It may not be the fastest search engine I’ve ever used but it is an interesting take on how search engines can evolve in the near future. When you type in a search query, it not only fetches a list of results but also displays the preview images of the web pages listed. So, you get a “peek” on what you seek. While the search engine does not store your data, the web portals you visit do track you.

So, in order to avoid that to an extent, Peekier accesses the site and generates a preview image to decide whether to head into the site or not (without you requiring to access it). In that way, you allow less websites to know about you – mostly the ones you trust.

Peekier

8. MetaGer

metager best privacy oriented search engines

MetaGer is yet another open source metasearch engine. However, unlike others, it takes privacy more seriously and enforces the use of Tor network for anonymous access to search results from a variety of search engines. Some search engines who claim to protect your privacy may share your information to the government (whatever they record) because the server is bound to US legal procedures. However, with MetaGer, the Germany-based server would protect even the anonymous data recorded while using MetaGer.

They do house a few number of advertisements (without trackers of course)- but you can get rid of those as well by joining in as a member of the non-profit organization – SUMA-EV – which sponsors the MetaGer search engine.

MetaGer

Suggested read  7 Open Source Chrome Alternative Web Browsers For Linux

Wrapping Up

If you are concerned about your privacy, you should also take a look at some of the best privacy-focused Linux distributions. Among the search engine alternatives mentioned here – DuckDuckGo – is my personal favorite. But it really comes down to your preference and whom would you choose to trust while surfing the Internet.

Do you know some more interesting (but good) privacy-oriented alternative search engines to Google?

Categorized in Search Engine

 Source: This article was published itsfoss.com By Ankush Das - Contributed by Member: Issac Avila

Brief: In this age of the internet, you can never be too careful with your privacy. Use these alternative search engines that do not track you.

Google – unquestionably being the best search engine out there, makes use of powerful and intelligent algorithms (including A.I. implementations) to let the users get the best out of a search engine with a personalized experience.

This sounds good until you start to live in a filter bubble. When you start seeing everything that ‘suits your taste’, you get detached from the reality. Too much of anything is not good. Too much of personalization is harmful as well.

This is why one should get out of this filter bubble and see the world as it is. But how do you do that?

You know that Google sure as hell tracks a lot of information about your connection and the system when you perform a search and take an action within the search engine or use other Google services such as Gmail.

So, if Google keeps on tracking you, the simple answer would be to stop using Google for searching the web. But what would you use in place of Google? Microsoft’s Bing is no saint either.

So, to address the netizens concerned about their privacy while using a search engine, I have curated a list of privacy oriented alternative search engines to Google. 

Best 8 Privacy-Oriented Alternative Search Engines To Google

Do note that the alternatives mentioned in this article are not necessarily “better” than Google, but only focuses on protecting users privacy. Here we go!

1. DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is one of the most successful privacy oriented search engines that stands as an alternative to Google. The user experience offered by DuckDuckGo is commendable. I must say – “It’s unique in itself”.

DuckDuckGo, unlike Google, utilizes the traditional method of “sponsored links” to display the advertisements. The ads are not focused on you but only the topic you are searching for – so there is nothing that could generate a profile of you in any manner – thereby respecting your privacy.

Of course, DuckDuckGo’s search algorithm may not be the smartest around (because it has no idea who you are!). And, if you want to utilize one of the best privacy oriented alternative search engines to Google, you will have to forget about getting a personalized experience while searching for something.

The search results are simplified with specific meta data’s. It lets you select a country to get the most relevant result you may be looking for. Also, when you type in a question or searching for a fix, it might present you with an instant answer (fetched from the source).

Although, you might miss quite a few functionalities (like filtering images by license) – that is an obvious trade-off to protect your privacy.

2. Qwant

best privacy oriented search engine

Qwant is probably one of the most loved privacy oriented search engines after DuckDuckGo. It ensures neutrality, privacy, and digital freedom while you search for something on the Internet.

If you thought privacy-oriented search engines generally tend to offer a very casual user experience, you need to rethink after trying out Qwant. This is a very dynamic search engine with trending topics and news stories organized very well. It may not offer a personalized experience (given that it does not track you) – but it does feel like it partially with a rich user experience offered to compensate that in a way.

Qwant is a very useful search engine alternative to Google. It lists out all the web resources, social feeds, news, and images on the topic you search for.

3. Startpage

best privacy oriented search engine

Startpage is a good initiative as a privacy-oriented search engine alternative to Google. However, it may not be the best one around. The UI is very similar to that of Google’s (while displaying the search results – irrespective of the functionalities offered). It may not be a complete rip-off but it is not very impressive – everyone has got their own taste.

To protect your privacy, it lets you choose it. You can either select to visit the web pages using the proxy or without it. It’s all your choice. You also get to change the theme of the search engine. Well, I did enjoy my switch to the “Night” theme. There’s an interesting option with the help of which you can generate a custom URL keeping your settings intact as well.

4. Privatelee

best privacy oriented search engine

Privatelee is another kind of search engine specifically tailored to protect your online privacy. It does not track your search results or behavior in any way. However, you might get a lot of irrelevant results after the first ten matched results.

The search engine isn’t perfect to find a hidden treasure on the Internet but more for general queries. Privatelee also supports power commands – more like shortcuts – which helps you search for the exact thing in an efficient manner. It will save a lot of your time for pretty simple tasks such as searching for a movie on Netflix. If you were looking for a super fast privacy oriented search engine for common queries, Privatelee would be a great alternative to Google.

5. Swisscows

best privacy oriented search engine

Well, it isn’t dairy farm portfolio site but a privacy-oriented search engine as an alternative to Google. You may have known about it as Hulbee – but it has recently redirected its operation to a new domain. Nothing has really changed except for the name and domain of the search engine. It works the same way it was before as Hulbee.com.

Swisscows utilizes Bing to deliver the search results as per your query. When you search for something, you would notice a tag cloud on the left sidebar which is useful if you need to know about the related key terms and facts. The design language is a lot simpler but one of its kind among the other search engines out there. You get to filter the results according to the date but that’s about it – no more advanced options to tweak your search results. It utilizes a tile search technique (a semantic technology) to fetch the best results to your queries. The search algorithm makes sure that it is a family-friendly search engine with pornography and violence ruled out completely.

6. searX

best privacy oriented search engine

searX is an interesting search engine – which is technically defined as a “metasearch engine”. In other words, it utilizes other search engines and accumulates the results to your query in one place. It does not store your search data being an open source metasearch engine at the same time. You can review the source code, contribute, or even customize it as your own metasearch engine hosted on your server.

If you are fond of utilizing Torrent clients to download stuff, this search engine will help you find the magnet links to the exact files when you try searching for a file through searX. When you access the settings (preferences) for searX, you would find a lot of advanced things to tweak from your end. General tweaks include – adding/removing search engines, rewrite HTTP to HTTPS, remove tracker arguments from URL, and so on. It’s all yours to control. The user experience may not be the best here but if you want to utilize a lot of search engines while keeping your privacy in check, searX is a great alternative to Google.

7. Peekier

best privacy oriented search engine

Peekier is another fascinating privacy oriented search engine. Unlike the previous one, it is not a metasearch engine but has its own algorithm implemented. It may not be the fastest search engine I’ve ever used but it is an interesting take on how search engines can evolve in the near future. When you type in a search query, it not only fetches a list of results but also displays the preview images of the web pages listed. So, you get a “peek” on what you seek. While the search engine does not store your data, the web portals you visit do track you.

So, in order to avoid that to an extent, Peekier accesses the site and generates a preview image to decide whether to head into the site or not (without you requiring to access it). In that way, you allow less websites to know about you – mostly the ones you trust.

8. MetaGer

best privacy oriented search engine

MetaGer is yet another open source metasearch engine. However, unlike others, it takes privacy more seriously and enforces the use of Tor network for anonymous access to search results from a variety of search engines. Some search engines who claim to protect your privacy may share your information to the government (whatever they record) because the server is bound to US legal procedures. However, with MetaGer, the Germany-based server would protect even the anonymous data recorded while using MetaGer.

They do house a few number of advertisements (without trackers of course)- but you can get rid of those as well by joining in as a member of the non-profit organization – SUMA-EV – which sponsors the MetaGer search engine.

Wrapping Up

If you are concerned about your privacy, you should also take a look at some of the best privacy-focused Linux distributions. Among the search engine alternatives mentioned here – DuckDuckGo – is my personal favorite. But it really comes down to your preference and whom would you choose to trust while surfing the Internet.

Categorized in Search Engine

The company’s revamped app and browser extension will block ad tracking networks from companies like Google and Facebook

DuckDuckGo is launching updated versions of its browser extension and mobile app, with the promise of keeping internet users safe from snooping “beyond the search box.”

The company’s flagship product, its privacy-focused search engine, will remain the same, but the revamped extension and app will offer new tools to help users keep their web-browsing as safe and private as possible. These include grade ratings for websites, factoring in their use of encryption and ad tracking networks, and offering summaries of their terms of service (with summaries provided by third-party Terms of Service Didn’t Read). The app and extension are available for FirefoxSafariChromeiOS, and Android.

The ability to block ad tracking networks is probably the most important feature here. These networks are used by companies like Google and Facebook to follow users around the web, stitching together their browsing history to create a more accurate profile for targeted advertising. DuckDuckGo says its software will “expose and block” these trackers when it can find them. Although, in the cat and mouse game of advertising vs. privacy tech, it won’t always be able to catch them all.

DuckDuckGo has long been a small fish in a big pond (or should that be a small duck), but its pitch to users continues to prove popular. At the beginning of 2017, it celebrated 10 billion searches since its creation in 2009. This figure now stands at 16 billion — an increase of more than 50 percent in less than a year.

According to DuckDuckGo CEO Gabriel Weinberg, this shows the appetite for privacy online is only getting stronger. And, says Weinberg, the more people that use tools like DuckDuckGo’s, the more tech companies will be forced to reconsider their business model. “We’ll collectively raise the Internet’s privacy grade, ending the widespread use of invasive tracking,” writes Weinberg. It’s ambitious, to say the least.

Source: This article was published theverge.com By James Vincent

Categorized in Search Engine

DuckDuckGo has almost doubled its popularity in the past year, giving it the title of 400th most popular website worldwide

Let’s face it, Google probably knows everything about you.

Whether it’s through the search engine, internet browser, phone or emails, the service is learning new things about you each day. In fact, last year, Google launched an opt-in service known as “My Activity”, a page where you can see everything Google has learned about you in one place. 

But if you want this to change, there is an alternative, and it’s growing in popularity. Describing itself as “the search engine that doesn’t track you”, DuckDuckGo promises not to collect any information about its users, including their IP address.

What is DuckDuckGo?

The DuckDuckGo search engine was launched in 2008 by founder Gabriel Weinberg, who funded it himself until it secured investment with Union Square Ventures in 2011. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength.

According to figures from the website Alexa, DuckDuckGo has almost doubled its popularity in the past year, giving it the title of 400th most popular website worldwide. In September, the website reached 19 million direct searches, a figure that has shown a gradual increase throughout the year.

Unlike other search engines, when you click on a link through DuckDuckGo the site you are sent to knows nothing about the words you used to find it. “What you search for is your own business and we’d like to keep it that way,” the company says.

DuckDuckGo recently reported that only 24% of adults care enough about their online privacy to take action to protect it while 65% would be motivated to switch search engines if they knew the search engine wouldn't collect personal data. 

DuckDuckGo features

The search engine is aimed at providing a quicker answer, requiring fewer clicks. It uses features called Instant Answers, which provide an answer without leaving the app, and !bangs, which take you straight to a particular website.

Elsewhere, the website offers a service that automatically changes the address of well-known websites to encrypted versions, if you click through its search engine.

Plus it offers fewer adverts. “Less clutter, less spam, fewer ads and an overall cleaner design,” the company says. “We can do this since we just focus on web search and therefore don't have to promote other services on our results pages.”

When it comes to advertising, DuckDuckGo makes money based on the keywords a user searches for, rather than the details of the person, meaning it does not need to collect any other information to create lucrative advertising. 

Related...

DuckDuckGo and Brave

DuckDuckGo recently partnered with the Brave browser to integrate the DuckDuckGo search within the browser's private tabs. 

The tie-in is available if you upgrade the Brave browser to 0.19.116. DuckDuckGo will be integrated in the Brave Android and iOS apps in the first quarter of 2018.

Under the partnership, when you open a private tab on Brave - the equivalent of opening an Incognito tab on Google - you'll get the option to make DuckDuckGo your default search engine. 

Many popular sites host as many as 70 trackers, following you around the web and collecting information about your habits. Brave, by default, stops ads and trackers and its private tabs are not logged in History or in browsing data.

DuckDuckGo browser extension

You can set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine and add the DuckDuckGo browser extension to Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari and Microsoft Edge. Below are the links for each extension. Click the one that applies to your browser(s).

For each of those browsers, you can also add DuckDuckGo as your default search engine directly from the homepage using the address bar. 

Go to DuckDuckGo, right-click the address in the address bar, select "Edit search engines" and find DuckDuckGo. You can now set this as your default search engine. 

You can also download the DuckDuckGo Android app or iOS App.

Source: This article was published alphr.com By Abigail Beall

Categorized in Search Engine

Privacy search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Startpage are becoming increasingly popular. They usually leverage the big search engines in order to return results, but proxy search requests so that Google or Yahoo or Microsoft do not know who made the search. In other words, these see only that the search query came from the privacy search engine.

These privacy search engines promise to not log your IP address or any searches you make. Does this sound good to you? Good. The next question, then, is which privacy search engine to use…

Why privacy search engines?

The problem with most search engines is that they spy on you. This is their business model – to learn as much about you as possible, in order deliver highly targeted advertising direct to your browser window.

Google has even recently dropped its moratorium on combining what it learns by scanning your emails with what it learns about you through your searches. All the better to spy on you. Information typically collected and stored each time you make a search includes:

  • Your IP address
  • Date and time of query
  • Query search terms
  • Cookie ID – this cookie is deposited in your browser’s cookie folder, and uniquely identifies your computer. With it, a search engine provider can trace a search request back to your computer

This information is usually transmitted to the requested web page, and to the owners of any third party advertising banners displayed on that page. As you surf around the internet, advertisers build up a (potentially highly embarrassing) profile of you.

Of course, if Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, etc., know lots about you, this information can be (and often is) handed over to the police and the NSA.

Google Transparency Report on the number of User Data Requests received, and the number (at least partially) acceded to

Indeed, it was only recently that evidence emerged showing Yahoo works hand in glove with the NSA to betray its users to the intelligence service.  Naughty, naughty.

The filter bubble

An added benefit of using a search engine that does not track you is that it avoids the “filter bubble” effect. Most search engines use your past search terms (and things you “Like” on social networks) to profile you. They can then return results they think will interest you.

This can result in only receiving search returns that agree with your point of view, This locks you into a “filter bubble,” where you do not get to see alternative viewpoints and opinions because they have been downgraded in your search results.

Not only does this deny you access to the rich texture and multiplicity of human input, but it can also be very dangerous as it can confirm prejudices, and prevent you from seeing the “bigger picture”.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo Privacy Search Engines

  • PROS
  • No logs or tracking
  • Looks great
  • Discrete non-targeted ads
  • Bangs
  • Contextual filters
  • CONS
  • US company
  • Uses Amazon servers
  • Yahoo results 

DuckDuckGo is “The Search Engine that Vows Not to Track You.” Gabriel Weinberg, the CEO and founder of DuckDuckGo has stated that “if the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you.”

It is a US-based company, and is the most popular and high-profile of the privacy search engines. Searches are primarily sourced via Yahoo, with whom DuckDuckGo has a strong relationship.

This is very worrying given recent revelations about its ties to the NSA,  but DuckDuckGo continues to promise that it does not collect or share personal information.

Aesthetics

DuckDuckGo sports a clean interface. I find its red, grey, and white styling and cutesy logo attractive and fun, although this is, of course, a matter of personal taste.

Search results

  • DuckDuckGo offers search suggestions as you type in a query.
  • Search returns are very fast. This includes image and video search returns.
  • Presentation of results is very clear.
  • Search filter categories include Web, Images, Videos, Products, Meanings, Definition, and News. Displayed filters are adaptive, and DDG will initially show results under the filter category that it feels is most appropriate to the search terms. Depending the filter selected, DuckDuckGo may display image, video or Wikipedia previews at either the top of the search page, or in a box to the right of the results.
  • Ads may also be displayed to the right of search results. Paid ads are clearly marked as such, are discreet, and are never mixed in with the “pure” search returns.
  • Image results, however, can only be filtered by size (Small, Medium. Large).
  • Video results display a thumbnail preview. YouTube videos can be played directly from DDG the website, but a warning alerts you to the fact that these will be tracked by YouTube/Google.
  • Results can also be filtered by country and date (Anytime, Past Day, Past Week or Past Month).
  • Subjectively, I find the quality of DuckDuckGo’s search returns to be very good. I have seen complaints, however, by others who do not find them as good as those of Google. This is one reason why “bangs” are so useful (see below).

Here we can see both the contextual filter in actual (auto-direct to Products) and DDG’s discrete ads

How it makes money

DuchDuckGo displays ads alongside its search results. These are sourced from Yahoo as part of the Yahoo-Microsoft search alliance. By default, when advertisers sign up for a Bing Ads account, their ads automatically enter rotation into all of Bing’s distribution channels, including DuckDuckGo

Importantly, however, these ads are untargeted (they are displayed based on your search terms). And as already noted, there are clearly marked and are displayed separately from the “pure” search returns.

DuckDuckGo is part of the affiliate programs of Amazon and eBay. When you visit those sites through DuckDuckGo and subsequently make a purchase, it receives a small commission. No personally identifiable information is given out in this way, however, and this does not influence search result rankings.

Privacy

DuckDuckGo states that does not collect or share personal information.

  • An affiliate code may be added to some eCommerce sites (e.g. Amazon & eBay), but this does not include any personally identifiable information.
  • Being based in the US means that DuckDuckGo is subject to government pressure and laws such as FISA and the Patriot Act. This means that the US government could mandate that DuckDuckGo start logging its users’ activities. And prevent the company from alerting users to this fact via a Gag order.
  • DuckDuckGo uses Amazon servers. Again, this is a US company, subject to pressure from the US government.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report: A+

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo, has contacted me regarding this article. Please see the Update at the bottom of this page for his answers to some  criticisms expressed here.

Features

In addition to its rather nifty contextual filters, the most striking feature of DuckDuckGo is “bangs”.

These allow you to search other websites quickly and easily. For example, typing !guk before a search query will return Google UK search results, and typing !a will search the Amazon store for you.

Note that bangs take you to the website in question. The searches are proxied, but if you are signed into Google (for example), then Google will know who you are and will record the search terms.

My thoughts

DuckDuckGo is, in my opinion, the best looking and most user-friendly privacy search engine out there. This makes it great to use, although some may prefer Google to the primarily Yahoo-based search results.

Bangs are a killer feature, however, and one that go a long way towards compensating for this issue. Just remember to sign out of your Google account before using a Google bang!

It is little surprise, then, that DuckDuckGo is so popular. But the fact that it is a US company should sound a note of caution.

Startpage (and Ixquick)

Startpage

  • PROS
  • No logs or tracking
  • Non-targeted ads
  • Can proxy webpages
  • Based in Netherlands
  • Google results
  • CONS
  • Runs servers in the US (but can you choose non-US servers)

Startpage and Ixquick are run by the same company. In the past, Startpage returned Google results, while Ixquick returned results from a number of other search engines, but not Google. The two services have now been combined, and both return identical Google results.

Although no longer actively supported, the old Ixquick metasearch engine is still available at Ixquick.eu. Interestingly, despite no longer being actively supported, Startpage has recently removed Yahoo results from the legacy search engine. This is in response to news that Yahoo has been helping the NSA spy on its users.

Aesthetics

The cloudy blue sky default theme doesn’t really do it for me, although this can be changed in the settings. Overall, there is nothing wrong with how Startpage looks, but I much prefer DuckDuckGo’s red-themed cutesiness.

Search results

  • Suggestions are not offered as you type.
  • Search returns are fast, but perhaps not as fast as those of DuckDuckGo (this is a purely subjective assessment).
  • Presentation of results is very clear.
  • Searches can be only filtered by Web, Images and Video categories. An advanced search option is available that allows you to specify a variety of search parameters, and you can filter results by time.
  • Ads are displayed above search results. These are clearly marked as ads, and are not mixed with the “pure” search results.
  • There are no additional filters for Images.
  • Video results display an image preview. YouTube can be played directly on the Startpage website, although you are warned that this is not private.
  • Search results are pulled directly from Google, and are therefore very good. This does mean, however, that information censored by Google is also censored from these returns.

startpage-1

Ads are more prominent than with DDG, but the ability to proxy webpages is great

How it makes money

Much like DuckDuckGo, Startpage makes money from ads and affiliate links. These ads are untargeted, clearly marked, and not mixed in with the “real” search returns. They are somewhat more prominently displayed than with DuckDuckGo, however.

Privacy

  • Startpage is based in the Netherlands, which has strong privacy laws.
  • It runs servers collocated in the US. These are owned and controlled by Startpage, and I am assured that they are secure against government snooping. If this worries you, however…
  • It is possible to use non-US servers only (or non-EU servers).
  • Webpages returned from searches can be proxied (see below).
  • Startpage is the only privacy search engine that has been independently audited.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report: A+

Features

Startpage’s killer feature is that, rather than visiting a website directly, you can proxy the connection. If you select this option, then a proxy server run by Startpage sits between your computer and the website.

This prevents the website from knowing your true IP address (much like a VPN), and from being able to use web tracking and fingerprinting technologies to identify and track you.  The downside is that pages load more slowly, since StartPage must retrieve the contents and redisplay them.

I must say that this is a terrific feature, and one that can greatly improve your privacy. Given its downside, however, you probably won’t want to use it all the time.

My thoughts

Startpage is not as pretty or user-friendly as DuckDuckGo. But thanks to being based in the Netherlands and having nothing to do with Yahoo, it should be more resistant to NSA spying than its US-based rivals long (if you specify non-US servers!). And  the ability to proxy web pages is an absolute doozy.

 SearX

Search

  • PROS
  • Can be self-hosted
  • Choose which search engines to leverage
  • Can proxy webpages
  • No ads
  • CONS
  • Public instances could be logged

Less well-known, but fast gaining traction with the security community is SearX. Not only is SearX fully open source, but it is easy to setup and run your own instance of it.

There is an official public SearX instance, or you can use one of many volunteer-run public instances. But what SearX is really about is running your own instance. This makes SearX the only metasearch engine where you can be 100 percent sure that no logs are kept!

Aesthetics

I would describe SearX as functional looking, rather than pretty. That said, the layout is clean, and results are displayed clearly. It is possible for hosts to customize their instances somewhat, although most instances look and feel fairly similar to the official template.

Search results

  • By default, SearX leverages results from a large number of search engines.

searx-search-engines

In Preferences, users can change which search engines are used

  • Search suggestions are not offered as you type, but are displayed to the right of your search returns.
  • Searches can be filtered by the following categories: General, Files, Images, IT, Map (using OpenStreetMap), Music, News, Science, Social Media and Videos. They can also be filtered by time.
  • There are no ads
  • Wikipedia entries are displayed to the right of search results
  • There are no additional filters for Images, although a preview is displayed when they are clicked on.
  • Video results display a thumbnail preview. Clicking on a video takes you to the website it is hosted on (for example YouTube or Vimeo).
  • Search results can be downloaded as a .csv, .json., or rss file.
  • As with Starpage, search results can be viewed proxied. This will “break” many websites, but does allow for a very high level of privacy.
  • Search results are as good as the engine’s selected. The official instance uses Google, Bing, Wikipedia, and a host of other first-rate engines by default, so the results are excellent.

How it makes money

SearX is an open source project run by volunteers. On the official instance there is no on-site advertising and no affiliate marketing.

Because it is open source, individual operators of public SearX instances are free to introduce their own finance models. But I have yet to find a single instance that is not 100 percent ad and affiliate-free.

Privacy

  • There is no way to know if a public SearX instance operator is logging your searches. And this includes the official instance.
  • That said, there is no way to guarantee that DDG, Startpage, or any other “private” search engines are not logging your searches either…
  • If you are serious about privacy, therefore, you should set up your own SearX instance. In fact, setting up your own SearX instance on a server that only you directly control is the only way currently available to guarantee that your searches are not logged.
  • This makes self-hosted SearX instances by far the most secure search engines available. Documentation for installing your own SearX instance is available here.
  • For the casual user, public SearX instances are unlikely to log your searches, and are much less likely to be monitored by the likes of the NSA than the other services mentioned here.
  • Just remember, though, that there is no way to be sure of this.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report for searx.me (the official instance): A. Note that each SearX instance (public or private) is different in this respect.

searx-reults

The are no ads, search suggestions are listed to the right, and as with Startpage, you can proxy webpages

Features

As with Startpage, the ability to proxy websites is a killer feature if you can live with it breaking many websites that you visit.

My thoughts

For serious tech-savvy privacy-heads, a self-hosted SearX instance is the way to go. Simply put, nothing else is in the same league when it comes to knowing for certain that your searches are not logged.

More casual users may also be surprised at how well the software works on public instances. My personal feelings are that these are much less likely to log your searches or be spied on by the US and other governments than DuckDuckGo, Startpage or Disconnect. But this is purely speculation.

Disconnect Search

Disconnect Search

  • PROS
  • No logs or tracking
  • No ads
  • Choice of search engines
  • CONS
  • US company (so beware the NSA)
  • Uses Amazon servers (so beware the NSA)

Before writing a Disconnect review, we knew the US-based company had made a name for itself with some excellent open source privacy-oriented browser extensions. One of these is the open source Disconnect Search add-on for Firefox and Chrome (a non-open source Android app is also available).

This browser add-on is still the primary way to use Disconnect Search, although a JavaScript web app is available. This mimics the browser extension, and allow you to perform web searches from the Disconnect Search web page.

Disconnect also markets a Premium VPN and online security app, with Disconnect Search functionality built-in. Please see my Disconnect review for more details on this.

Search results

  • Searches are usually made from the browser add-on.
  • You can select which of three search engines to query: Bing, Yahoo or DuckDuckGo (default).
  • Unlike the other privacy metasearch engines discussing this article, Disconnect does not display search returns on its own website. Results are simply routed through Disconnect’s servers to hide their origin, and are then opened in the selected search engine’s webpage.
  • Incognito mode searches are supported.

disconnect-search-1

The browser extension

How it makes money

Disconnect markets a Premium product (see review), but the Disconnect Search browser extension is free. It hides your IP when making searches, but then sends you direct to the selected search engine.  This means that Disconnect performs no advertising or affiliate marketing of its own when making a search.

Privacy

  • Disconnect is a US company, and is therefore not a good choice for the more NSA-phobic out there.
  • The browser extension is open source, but search requests can still be logged by Disconnect, as they are made through its servers.
  • Disconnect hosts its service on Amazon servers.
  • Qualys SSL labs security report: A (this is for the Disonnect.me website).

My thoughts

The Disconnect Search browser extension provides a quick and easy way hide your true identity whilst making searches using your favorite search engine.  The fact that Disconnect is US-based, however, is a major issue.

Honorary mention: Peekier

Peekier is a new no-logs search engine. There is not enough information about this service currently available for me to give it a proper assessment. It is worth mentioning, however, because of the attractive and innovative way that it displays search results.

Results are displayed as large thumbnail previews of returned webpages

In a field were where, if we are honest, most search engines look pretty similar, it is great to see a different approach. I therefore think it worth flagging up Peekier, and keeping an eye on the service to see how it develops.

Privacy Search Engines Conclusion

Using any of these services engines will greatly improve your search privacy. Crucially, your searches will not be recorded in order to build to help a profile that is used to sell you stuff. All the search engines I looked at in this article are easy to use and return good results.

DuckDuckGo, in particular, is extremely user-friendly. This makes it a great service for transitioning away from Google.

Will these services protect your searches from government surveillance (and the NSA in particular)? In the case of US companies, it is safest to assume not. But unless you are doing something very illegal, this may not concern you (although it should).

Startpage is non-US based, has been independently audited, and allows you to access websites with a great deal of privacy thanks to its proxy feature. It is therefore a much better choice for privacy-heads than DuckDuckGo.

Public SearX instances are less likely to be monitored than other higher-profile search engines, but they may be. It is also likely that you will know nothing about their operators. Running your own SearX instance on hardware directly under your control, however, is an extremely secure and private solution. And is therefore only one that I can recommend to serious privacy fanatics.

The fact the SearX has a great interface and returns on-the-button results from all the major search engines is the icing on the cake.

Update

Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo, has contacted me regarding this article. It is his firm (and I believe genuine) belief that DDG is as secure and private as a search engine can be (barring one that is self-hosted). And that my concerns about it being a US company and over its partnership with Yahoo are largely unfounded.

Central to his argument is that DDG keeps no logs. This means that it cannot be subpoenaed to provide what it does not have, and makes it irrelevant who it partners with. As no information exists about DDG’s users anyway.

Gabriel also pointed out the legal protections US citizens enjoy against government spying that are not afforded to other nationals, and that DuckDuckGo operates non-US servers. Users outside the US will mostly be directed to these when performing searches.

Now. I will go on record as saying that I think being a US company is a serious threat to privacy. This article is not the place to discuss such issues in detail, but look out for an upcoming article where I will dive into the subject head first.

Source: This article was published bestvpn.com By Douglas Crawford

Categorized in Search Engine

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