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What is Private Search Engine? Use following tips to clean your traces in Internet

Published: June 29, 2021 By Darina Shramko

Tips to clean your traces in Internet

Image source: vecteezy.com

It's no secret that our online activity is being tracked. What you Google last night, what apps you download from the App Store, and what song you listen to most on Spotify are all analyzed by marketers, advertisers, and other organizations that benefit from their product usage data.

Of course, nothing will happen if your musical interests help marketers collect listening statistics. Search services are another matter. Google, Bing, and other systems know everything about you: interests, location, and even your IP address!

It's scary to think that outsiders are aware of your interests. But we can't stop using the Internet either, can we? Well, I'm happy to offer you a compromise solution - private search engines! Are you wondering, right?

I dare to say that alternative search engines are many times better than giants as Google or Yandex. Why? I have several compelling reasons:

  • Private search engines guarantee you complete anonymity on the Internet
  • Your IP address, location, and other personal data are not recorded by third parties
  • You can continue to use Bing, Google, and other search engines, but at the same time remain anonymous
  • Private search engines have much less advertising than search engines - giants
  • Developers of private search engines value the trust of their audience, so you are 100% protected from information leakage

And this is only a part of the advantages of private browsing search engines! You are intrigued, I know. I have compiled the best private search engines that will make your life easier and more anonymous. Well, let's not wait a minute and get started soon!

This article also:

  • a practical guide for computer users,
  • a practical guide for companies looking to keep their employees safe online
 

Disclaimer

This article discusses the technologies that should be used to save confidential data (location, IP address, etc.) on the Internet. Any use of these methods for hacking or unauthorized access is illegal. All information is provided only to inform you about how search engines work and how they can collect data about users.


What are Search Engines and how do they work?

So, before we get into ways to protect your online privacy, let's take a look at what search services are and how they work.

A search service is an online service that searches for information on the Internet. Some of the most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo!, Bing, MSN, Yandex, etc.

Google and other search services help us in a second to find the information we need on the vast Internet. The trouble is that your search queries often come with a heavy price − your privacy.

Most of the search engines - giants cooperate with advertising companies, collecting all information about the interests and requests of users. Collecting information about you provides advertisers with income from targeted advertising.

Targeted advertising is the promotion of advertising in an online format.

The essence of this advertising is to use methods of searching for the target audience by parameters (search queries of users) of people who may be interested in a particular product or service. Targeted advertising is shown only to the target audience ensures more efficient use of the advertising company's budget.

Typically, search engines track your IP address, location, unique identifier stored in browser cookies, user agents, and search queries.

A user agent is a software that runs on behalf of a user. The agent retrieves, displays, and facilitates user interaction with web content.

Also, search engines can collect information about your illnesses, employment status, financial problems, and political opinions. Yes, yes, your search terms can tell too much about you. Do I need to say that all this data can use against you?

Of course, we get scared about the thought that we aren't protecting in any way on the Internet, and our data is in the public domain. We want to feel safe and comfortable while surfing the Internet.

In the system of total control over our lives, you can only trust private search engines, which will not use your confidential information for personal gain. Let's take a closer look at why private search engines are an island of anonymity in the ocean of surveillance.


What is a Private Search Engine?

A few years ago, like most people, I used Google and didn't even suspect that I was being followed. I googled symptoms when something hurt, followed political news, and searched for audiobooks. How I indignant when I found out that all my actions were recorded and used by third parties.

So advertisers, marketers, and other organizations knew I had a headache at 5:45 pm on Saturday. It's outrageous! I felt hurt and scared for my life. I felt like a helpless kitten thrown to the mercy of fate. Having calmed down, I decided to act. My goal was to return the right to privacy on the Internet at all costs! Then I learned about the existence of private search engines, and my life change to best.

So, a private search engine is a system that allows you to find information on the Internet without revealing sensitive data.

Private search engines protect your data from hacking and theft. Such search engines do not collect your confidential information, track your location, and transfer data to third parties.

The choice of a private search engine depends on your individual needs. There are many search engine options, so the system that suits you may not like your husband or girlfriend.

For example, I have been using a Swisscows private search engine for several years now. It is a reliable and safe search engine that I can trust all my secrets. Thanks to Swisscows, I am not afraid that someone might find out about my illnesses or political views. The search engine is suitable for both personal use and business purposes.

You can use Swisscows in your workplace and guarantee safety on the Internet. By the way, this private search engine is in my Top 9 best private search engines, which I have compiled based on my experience and observations. I can't wait to share my top alternative search engines with you!


Best Private Search Services you can trust

I have been used these search engines for several months and have analyzed the security policy of each search engine on this list. I also examined the traffic of resources according to the SimilarWeb. There are many more private search engines out there, but not all have passed my rigorous testing. For example, I strongly discourage you from using Search Encrypt, Ghost Peek, and Startpage! I found vulnerabilities in the functionality of these three search engines, namely the transfer of data to third parties and contradictions in the privacy policy.

Well, let's get started!

MetaGer

MetaGer Main Page

Image source – metager.com

MetaGer is a private open-source search engine. The main office of MetaGer is located in Germany. The search engine is ideal for both personal and business purposes. Using MetaGer, you will securely receive information on your request from such giants as Yahoo!, Bing, Yandex, etc.

Advantages:

  • When you get the result of a query, you see its source (for example, the results of your query come from a search engine),
  • The ability to filter the search is available (language, date, and other parameters),
  • Proxy browsing options “Open anonymously”,
  • MetaGer converts search queries into anonymous ones through a proxy server and doesn't use cookies or any other methods of collecting information.

Disadvantages:

  • If you want to use the search engine without ads, you will have to buy a membership at a cost minimum of 5 EUR per month. 

Several features of the MetaGer Private Search Engine

Image source – metager.com

You can also donate and contribute to the development of MetaGer. On the right, you will see the Donate button.

Donating to MetaGer Private Search Engine

Image source – metager.org

Swisscows

Swisscows Main Page

Image source – swisscows.com

Swisscows was created in 2014 in Switzerland and manage to establish itself as a reliable and safe search engine. Having opened the official Swisscows website, we were pleasantly surprised. It turns out that the developers do not cooperate with either cloud storage or third-party.

Advantages:

  • Swisscows does not collect any information about users, not even IP addresses!
  •  The search engine has its own data center in the Swiss Fort Knox dedicated to the server infrastructure,
  • The developers of Swisscows don’t cooperate with either cloud storage or third parties,
  • Swisscows has a data center in the Swiss Alps, which recognize as the safest bunker in Europe!

Disadvantages:

  • Not detected.

SearX

SearX Main Page

Image source – searx.me

SearX is a free and open-source search engine. Developers and all concerned people participate in improving the functionality of this private search engine.

Advantages:

  • The search engine removes all identifying data from your query,
  • Open source available on GitHub,
  • Does not store information about your requests and your location.

Disadvantages:

  • Not detected.

Qwant

Qwant Main Page

Image source – qwant.com

Qwant is an alternative search engine powered by the Bing engine. Quant was launched in 2011 and is currently one of the best private search engines.

Advantages:

  • Data will never pass on to third parties,
  • You can filter the results by category (news, photos, videos, music, etc.),
  • Ads generate using the Microsoft Bing Advertising Network,
  • Quant has established itself as a reliable and safe search engine for children from three years old.

Disadvantages:

  • The presence of contextual advertising can be distracting or annoying. However, private search engines only have a few funding avenues, one of which is profit from PPC views.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo Main Page

Image source – duckduckgo.com

The popularity came to this search service after the events with Edward Snowden in 2013.

Today DuckDuckGo is the default search engine in the Tor browser and is very popular among users.

Advantages:

  • DuckDuckGo does not save search history,
  • It is possible to save your settings in the cloud,
  • Transparent privacy policy,
  • Search by region,
  • Getting results for user's queries from 400 sources.
  • Function !bangs: you can query directly on sites like Wikipedia, Yelp, or YouTube by simply putting an exclamation mark at the very beginning.

Disadvantages:

  • There have been some suspicions in the past about DuckDuckGo's security policy. The fact is that CEO Gabriel Weinberg was involved in the now-defunct Names Database site (legally Opobox). Late, the company was sold to Classmates.com with all the remaining user data for a multimillion-dollar sum. It seems that Weinberg's involvement in the sold Names database is contrary to the search engine's security policy, which is why suspicions arose. The problem resolves back in 2018 when charges dropped against Gabriel.

Mojeek

Mojeek Main Page

Image source – mojeek.com

Mojeek is a private search engine established in 2004 in the UK.

Advantages:

  • 100% guaranteed anonymous search,
  • Independent and objective search results,
  • The first search engine to lack a privacy policy,
  • Search engine servers located in a green data center in the UK,
  • An emotional search is available.

Disadvantages:

  • The search engine is little known outside the UK.

YaCy

YaCy Main Page

Image source - yacy.net

YaCy is a free private search engine that anyone can use for personal or work purposes. This search engine is based on the principle of a peer-to-peer network. YaCy consists of separate nodes - copies of software that you need to install on your computer.

Advantages:

  • The search engine is decentralized,
  • All users of the search engine network are equal in their rights,
  • YaCy does not store custom searches,
  • Since there is no common server and YaCy nodes are autonomous, and there is no owner company, the search results become independent of someone's preferences and exclude censorship.

Disadvantages:

  • Users need to download the search engine software to their computer.

Givero

Givero Main Page

Image source - givero.com

Givero is one of the best private search engines. Developers care about the privacy of their audience, so they do everything possible to keep their users anonymous.

Advantages:

  • By using Givero, you automatically help charities without spending a cent. The funds from viewing contextual advertising go to help those in need,
  • Search engine donates 50% of its gross income to charity,
  • Option to turn off personalized search,
  • User data don't track.

Disadvantages:

  • Givero is not as popular as other private search engines, so the number of PPC views per month is relatively low. Developers give 50% of their income to those in need, so their earnings are not high. Please, support Givero developers whenever possible. Even a cent will make a significant contribution to the development of a search engine!

Ecosia

Ecosia Main Page

Image source - ecosia.org

Ecosia is a CO2-neutral private search engine. The uniqueness of this private search engine is that it is a social business, the income from which goes to greening our planet! Using Ecosia, you are doing a good deed for humanity.

Advantages:

  • Guaranteed anonymity on the Internet,
  • The funds received are used to plant trees. Users of this search engine contribute to the greening of the planet,
  • On the Ecosia homepage, you can see how many trees have been planted by Ecosia users.

Disadvantages:

  • Not detected.


Number Private Search Engine Global Rank Worldwide (data from SimilarWeb) Total Visit (data from SimilarWeb)
1 MetaGer 103,292 535.95K
2 Swisscows 24,045 2.92M
3 SearX 256,177 240.42K
4 Qwant 1,440 38.92M
5 DuckDuckGo 35 968.70M
6 Mojeek - -
7 YaCy - -
8 Givero - -
9 Ecosia - -


Conclusion

We live in a time when online safety is as important as health. At every stage, we are pursued by organizations that benefit from the personal use of our data. Search engines unceremoniously steal our confidential data and pass it on to third parties so that they can use our data as they please. It is unacceptable! I am extremely concerned about this fact and did my best to warn you against total surveillance.

Now that you are more familiar with how search engines work, it will be easier for you to maintain your privacy on the Internet.

I was happy to share my experience with private search engines with you and hope your data is safe now.

If you have questions or want my advice, write in the comments. I will be glad to talk to you.

Take care of yourself and your safety!

Author
Darina Shramko
Cybersecurity specialist and researcher.

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