What data is collected by the "big brother" search engines?
The search engines that most of the world use are massive data collection machines.
They typically collect, store, and actively use personally identifiable information such as:
- IP address
- Precise geo-location
- User agent string - your web browser, device, operating system, etc.
- Individual search queries - exact date and time of query
- Browsing history
- Cookies (unique identifiers)
To top everything off, major search engines don't give the option of "opting out" of having your data harvested and scrutinized.
That means that the big and non-private search engines know who you are, where you are, and what you're looking for every time you use their service.
This also means that the only way to keep your data from these data harvesting search engines is to not use their search services.
How is your data used?
Many of these search engines will claim to use this data "only to improve future search results."
Naturally, they use your data for much more than that; their 30 page privacy policies will tell you so.
(But they also know people won't sit down and read those wall of texts.)
Be aware that above anything else, your data gets sold, analyzed, scrutinized, and stored all for profit.
What is a private search engine?
Private search engines search for your given query without associating your search request with you or your browsing history.
Private search engines don't collect your data to create shadow profiles of you. They don't track you across the web, or serve you highly targeted advertisements based off your previous search history.
Search vs Metasearch
Most private search engines are actually metasearch engines. This just means that they pull data from other search engines such as Bing/Yahoo and Google.
Often, they'll pull from many other search engines from across the web, which can easily total above 100 different sources.
Private search engines keep your query anonymized, even while pulling data from Bing/Yahoo or Google.
Advantages of using a private search engine
1. Maintains your privacy
This is the number one benefit of using a private search engine.
They don't track you as you browse the web or follow you when you click on a link in a search result.
Again, private search engines don't store personal identifiable information such as source IP address.
If the search engine does log anything, it is typically very temporary but most important of all cannot be traced back to your data profile or real identity.
The filter bubble is a direct consequence of highly "personalized" (read: intrusive) searching.
The more data the major search engines gather about you, the more their automated algorithms can select what information they think you want to see.
In a way, you aren't getting the true results for what you're searching for. You're steadily being isolated by what the algorithm thinks you want to see. It's an internet echo chamber.
The filter bubble has contributed to prevalence of fake news and misinformation by trapping people in their own ideological and cultural bubbles.
Using a private search engine breaks you free from the filter bubble.
Since your data isn't being collected and stored, you're not being spoonfed information that a machine (or a company) thinks or wants you to see.
3. Reduces targeted advertising
Have you ever searched for something and then received weirdly precise ads about what you searched?
That's creepily super targeted advertising at work.
Often, the information search engines collect about you gets used (or sold) to advertising companies.
These advertising companies use this data, and then proceed to collect even more data about you with their own ad trackers. Through this cycle, the ads grow more and more targeted.