5 Alternative Search Engines That Respect Your Privacy

By Chris Hoffman on May 9th, 2012

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Google, Bing, Yahoo – all the major search engines track your search history and build profiles on you, serving different results based on your search history. Try one of these alternative search engines if you’re tired of being tracked.

Google now encrypts your search traffic when you’re logged in, but this only prevents third-parties from snooping on your search traffic – it doesn’t prevent Google from tracking you.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a popular search engine for the privacy-conscious. As its privacy page says, DuckDuckGo doesn’t log any personally identifiable information. DuckDuckGo doesn’t use cookies to identify you, and it discards user agents and IP addresses from its server logs. DuckDuckGo doesn’t event attempt to generate an anonymized identifier to tie searches together – DuckDuckGo has no way of knowing whether two searches even came from the same computer.

Editor’s Note: if you want a search engine that respects your privacy and is also great, DuckDuckGo is your choice. We listed out some other options on this page, but this is the one you want. It’s also clean, and has great search results.

Its home page is simple and clean – even more so than Google’s.

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Because DuckDuckGo knows nothing about you, it can’t serve different results to different users. You’ll get the same results as everyone else.

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DuckDuckGo’s donttrack.us page explains search engine tracking and DuckDuckGo’s approach in an entertaining way.

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Startpage

If you prefer Google’s search results and just want more privacy, try Ixquick’s Startpage. Startpage searches Google for you – when you submit a search, Startpage submits the search to Google and returns the results to you. All Google sees is a large amount of searches coming from Startpage’s servers – they can’t tie any searches to you or track your searches.

Startpage discards all personally identifiable information. Like DuckDuckGo, Startpage doesn’t use cookies, it immediately discards IP addresses, and it doesn’t keep a record of searches performed.

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If you’ve heard of Scroogle – a Google scraper that no longer exists – Startpage is a similar service.

Startpage also includes a proxy feature — you can open a page in Ixquick’s proxy directly from the search results. This is slower than normal browsing, but websites won’t be able to see your IP address. The proxy also disables JavaScript to protect your privacy.

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Ixquick

Ixquick is the main search engine from the company that runs Startpage. Unlike Startpage, Ixquick pulls results from a variety of sources instead of only Google – this can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how much you like Google’s search results.

Ixquick and Startpage have essentially the same design. Ixquick includes the same privacy features Startpage does, including the Ixquick proxy links in the search results.image

Blekko

Blekko doesn’t go as far as DuckDuckGo and Ixquick, but it’s still a big improvement over Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Blekko does log personally identifiable information, but deletes it within 48 hours. In contrast, Google stores this information for 9 months – and then anonymizes it without actually deleting it.

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You can disable the data collection entirely by enabling the SuperPrivacy setting. Blekko even lets you disable ads entirely.

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To surf anonymously everywhere — at the cost of slower browsing speed — try the Tor Browser Bundle.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 05/9/12
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