Learn how the major, well-known search engines track you and use your data for advertising purposes. Here you will also find private search alternatives to the "big brother" 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These are our recommendations for privacy respecting (meta)search engines.
Since your needs when using a search engine can easily vary, these engines are not listed in any particular order.
Qwant is a private search engine based in France.
In certain instances, Qwant does collect data; this is usually when you create an account for more advanced features. Qwant says that they do not sell or disclose data any data they do collect.
Despite this, Qwant says that they don't use this data to create a shadow profile based off your search history or browsing habits.
SearX is an open-source metasearch engine. Its source code is available on GitHub.
SearX allows you to self-host your own instance. This puts everything about the search experience in your hands. However, you'll find that your results could be lacking because they're being mixed with others'.
There is also a list of public instances. However, the catch with these public instances is that they're anonymous to the user (ie. you).
That means you'll have to trust whoever is running any given public instance you're using. In theory, a shady public instance could definitely store, log, sell, or otherwise abuse your search information without your knowledge.
Metager is an open source metasearch engine. It's run by a nonprofit and the engine's entire infrastructure is based out of Germany.
It can query up to 50 search engines to return results; these other engines can include the likes of Bing and Yandex.
MetaGer will let you know the source it pulled from for every result in a query.
MetaGer does not track you and does not store your private data. Your searches are routed through a proxy and therefore made anonymous.
DuckDuckGo is a private metasearch engine based in the US. Its one of the most popular private search engines among privacy-conscious users.
DuckDuckGo pulls from over 400 different sources, but most of the time it pulls results from Bing/Yahoo.
DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. Also, no cookies are used by default, unless you change settings.
However, DuckDuckGo has stated that it does save searches.
Swisscows is based in Switzerland, which has super strong data protection and & privacy laws for users.
Swisscows doesn't store any kind of user data. They do not track users under any circumstances.
Swisscows even takes their commitment to user privacy and data protection a step further; their DataCenter is located in the Swiss Alps. They also say that their entire infrastructure is "positioned geographically outside of the EU and US."
They also have a strong commitment to family-friendly content.
YaCy is probably the most unique search engine in our recommendations.
Granted, YaCy is a lot like Searx in that search instances can be hosted by different parties, including you.
However, YaCy is completely ran on a decentralized peer-to-peer network.
In order to use YaCy, you have to download the free and open-source YaCy Search Server.
Disconnect Search is another private search engine based in the US.
Disconnect doesn't collect personally identifiable information, such as your IP address, when you use the service. They state that the information they do collect is only that of which is voluntarily provided by the user.
They also do not track users across the web. However, they do collect "non-personally identifiable geo-location information" (but not precise location).
Any information that Disconnect Search collects will be retained for 30 days.