Best private search engines for secure and anonymous browsing

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14 mins
best private search engines

It’s hard to remember a time before search engines—when the answer to almost anything wasn’t available at the click of a button, and you couldn’t settle a dispute about who plays that guy in that show while you’re out for dinner.

There are plenty of search engines to choose from, with Yahoo! Search, Bing, and Baidu all favored in different markets. But there’s no denying Google’s domination—it officially became a verb in 2006 when it was added to the Oxford dictionary, and now claims over 90% market share in 2023.

However, many users have become concerned about the amount of personal data harvested by search engines like Google, and some are turning to private search engines to increase their security and anonymity as they browse the internet. If you’re not already a private search engine convert, read on to find out why you should try one. (If you are, we’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.)

What is a private search engine?

Private search engines are programs used to browse the internet that don’t store search or user information. You might also see them referred to as anonymous search engines or secure search engines. Typical search engines (like Google) collect a range of user information, including but not limited to:

  • IP addresses
  • User agents
  • Unique identifiers (found in cookies, search terms, and browser fingerprints)
  • Location information

And if you’re browsing Google while logged into your Google account, all your search and browsing data is used to build an ad profile so that Google can target you with more effective advertising content.

Read more: What does Big Tech know about you? Find out

Private search engines are designed to maintain user privacy. However, it’s important to remember that every search engine offers a different level of privacy based on how they generate revenue. As with everything, it pays to remember the mantra: “If something is free, you’re (probably) the product.”

Types of private search engines

There are two types of private search engines:

Metasearch engines

This type of private search engine is also known as a proxy search engine—it acts as a middleman between the user and search engines like Google or Baidu. Metasearch engines use information gathered from multiple search engines as well as their own crawlers to provide search results.


  • Of the two types of private search engines, metasearch engines can retrieve a broader range of results.


  • They may struggle to interpret more complex queries.
    They often generate revenue via sponsored link advertisements, which can affect your search results.

Standard private search engines

This type of private search engine doesn’t have a “name” because it acts just as a traditional search engine does. It uses proprietary crawlers to search the web and create independent indexes. Unlike mainstream search engines, the difference is that this one isn’t collecting troves of your personal information and profiting from it. (If this leads you to wonder how private search engines do make money, check out the FAQ at the end of this article.)


  • You’ll get search results that haven’t been affected by personalization filters.


  • You probably won’t see the volume of results gathered by mainstream search engines.

Why should you use a private search engine?

Using Google is easy. But it’s worth looking at their privacy policy to get a sense of the sheer scale of data collected from you. According to the policy, in addition to the personal identifies we listed earlier, Google also collects:

  • Terms you search for
  • Videos you watch
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Voice and audio information
  • Purchase activity
  • People with whom you communicate or share content
  • Activity on third-party sites and apps that use [their] services
  • Chrome browsing history you’ve synced with your Google Account

While you will have consented to the collection of your data, thanks to the EU GDPR, many people don’t remember doing it or feel they didn’t have a choice.

A private search engine will ensure you’re not sharing more personal data and information than you need to as you browse the internet. This is because private search engines don’t create a profile for you or collect your information each time you interact with them.

Read more: Best (and worst) search engines for privacy in 2023

11 best private search engines

Whether you prioritize uncensored results, environmental responsibility, computational knowledge, or speed and accuracy of search queries, these private search engines offer a variety of features and approaches to user privacy. (Not in any particular order.)


1. DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo logo.

DuckDuckGo is a popular private search engine that emphasizes user privacy by not tracking your searches or storing personal information. It serves millions of users and offers a range of features to help you browse the web by pulling results from other search engines and its web crawler, making it a metasearch engine. DuckDuckGo is well known for its “!bang” commands, which allow users to search other sites using the DuckDuckGo search box. For example, if you want to search for national parks in Texas using Google, you can type “!bang Google national parks Texas,” and you’ll receive the results Google would have shown you without the pesky data collection. As far as revenue goes, DuckDuckGo states on their website that they make money through private ads, meaning you’ll see a sponsored link at the top of your search results, just like with mainstream search engines.

Best for: Users looking for a private and anonymous search experience without being tracked by advertisers or search engines.

Does not:
– Track your searches
– Store your personal information
– Create user profiles
– Show personalized search results based on your past behavior

– Block trackers and advertising networks (including Facebook, Amazon, and Google)
– Provide search result categorizations
– Remove email trackers
– Use contextual advertising based on search queries, not user profiling

– SSL encryption for secure connections
– Tracker blocking to prevent third-party tracking
– !bang shortcuts for direct searches on other websites
– Desktop, mobile apps, and browser extensions
– Email Protection, an email forwarding service to remove email trackers

Price: Free


2. Qwant

Qwant logo.

Qwant is a privacy-oriented search engine developed and hosted in France that aims to provide an unbiased and secure search experience. Qwant has developed its own web indexing and offers impartial information without collecting your data. It doesn’t track your searches and doesn’t use cookies. In addition to their search engine, they’ve devised an alternative to Google Maps that gets you where you’re going without tracking you while you do it. You can also check out Qwant Junior, which offers a safe, advertising-free space for kids 6-12 to browse the internet. Qwant generates revenue with advertising via short contextual ads.

Best for: Users who want a search engine that respects their privacy while delivering comprehensive search results from across the web.

Does not:
– Track searches or sell your personal data
– Use cookies to identify you
– Provide personalized search results
– Collaborate with advertisers to target users

– Use its own web indexing
– Block trackers and cookies
– Offer an alternative to Google Maps

– 3-in-1 app and browser extension
– Custom maps app
– Qwant Junior, a search engine designed for children that blocks inappropriate content and doesn’t show advertising

Price: Free


3. Startpage

Startpage logo.

Startpage, previously known as Ixquick, is a privacy-focused metasearch engine that delivers Google search results while maintaining user anonymity. It acts as an intermediary between you and Google, ensuring your searches remain private. Startpage doesn’t collect, track, or sell your search history. Because you’re viewing Google results anonymously, you can access news that’s not curated based on your browsing history, view products and prices that aren’t shown based on your location, and avoid targeted advertising built around your user profile. Because Startpage is headquartered in the Netherlands, users are protected by the GDPR. Startpage generates revenue through contextual advertising.

Best for: Users who want Google’s search results without being tracked by Google itself.

Does not:
– Record your IP address or search history
– Use cookies to track your online behavior
– Share your personal information with third parties
– Show personalized ads based on your searches

– Provide Google search results privately
– Use proprietary personal data protection technology
– Offer Chrome and Firefox extensions

– Private Google search results
– Anonymous View feature for secure web browsing
– URL generator to share search results without revealing your IP
– No user tracking

Price: Free


4. Searx


Searx is an open-source metasearch engine that aggregates search results from various sources. Because it’s open-source, you can run it on your own server or contribute to the code via Git Hub. Searches won’t appear in Searx logs or your URL history, ensuring high levels of privacy. Searx is a non-profit initiative, so you won’t see ads or sponsored links.

Best for: Privacy-conscious users who prefer an open-source search engine and want to customize their search experience.

Does not:
– Track your searches or user behavior
– Store personal information or IP addresses
– Utilize targeted advertising based on your queries
– Share your search data with third parties

– Aggregate search results from multiple sources
– Allow users to customize their search preferences
– Offer a self-hosting option for enhanced privacy control
– Provide anonymous search capabilities

– Open-source
– Self-hosting option for advanced users
– Firefox extension (javascript required)

Price: Free


5. Swisscows

Swisscows logo.

Swisscows has built its own index for the German market and utilizes Bing for web searches, making it part metasearch engine. Swisscows uses semantic data recognition to generate search results. This means it attempts to improve search accuracy by understanding the intent and context of search terms rather than providing literal matches. Swisscows has also developed TeleGuard, an alternative to WhatsApp, and GetDigest, an AI-based program. Swisscows generates revenue through an agreement with Bing—search ads appear based on your search terms, and Swisscows receives a share of advertising revenue for every link click.

Best for: Users who want precise search results without sacrificing privacy and data security.

Does not:
– Track your search history or IP address
– Store personal information or create user profiles
– Utilize targeted advertising based on your searches
– Share your data with third parties

– Provide semantic search technology for accurate results
– Offer family-friendly content filtering
– Display search results from Bing while maintaining privacy

– Semantic search for precise results
– Family-friendly content filtering
– GetDigest, an AI-based program that helps summarize and deliver information
– TeleGuard, a data-secure messenger service

Price: Free


6. MetaGer

MetaGer logo.

MetaGer is an open-source metasearch engine from Germany. Search results are aggregated from various search engines, while servers run on 100% renewable energy. MetaGer doesn’t collect, store, or share personal data and offers users additional ways to increase privacy with features such as their anonymizing proxy, “Open Anonymously.” MetaGer is run by the non-profit organization SUMA-EV, although it does generate revenue through advertising and a paid version that removes the advertising.

Best for: Users looking for comprehensive search results from multiple sources and are also interested in renewable energy.

Does not:
– Store your search history or personal data
– Track your online activities to create user profiles
– Show personalized ads based on your searches
– Collaborate with third parties for data sharing

– Aggregate search results from different sources
– Provide anonymous and privacy-focused search experience
– Offer options for anonymous proxy browsing
– Support open-source initiatives for transparency

– Ability to create a personal blacklist
– Android app
– MetaGer Maps app
– “Open Anonymously” option

Price: Free, with a paid option that removes advertising


7. Mojeek

Mojeek logo.

Mojeek, an independent UK search engine, was the first search engine to have a no-tracking policy. Mojeek’s search technology was created in 2006 by Marc Smith; according to Mojeek’s blog, they now have over 6 billion pages. In addition to the web and image search functions, you can also see world news that hasn’t been curated based on your user profile. Mojeek generates revenue through contextual advertising.

Best for: Users who value search neutrality and want to explore the web without being tracked.

Does not:
– Track your search history or online behavior
– Use cookies to identify you or create user profiles
– Show personalized search results based on your queries
– Share your data with advertisers or third parties

– Use custom web indexing to crawl the web
– Provide unbiased and non-tracked search results
– Offer search filtering options for different content types

– Independent search engine
– Option to turn off Wikipedia
– Apps for iOS and Android, plus browser extensions
– Median response time of 88ms

Price: Free


8. Ecosia

Ecosia logo.

Ecosia is a unique metasearch engine with a focus on environmental sustainability. It searches Bing exclusively, so you can think of Ecosia as your Bing intermediary. Ecosia generates revenue through the Microsoft Advertising Network, meaning you’ll also see paid ads from Bing in your search results. As a non-profit, Ecosia uses its ad revenue to plant trees. It has also built solar plants, making the company carbon-negative.

Best for: Privacy-focused users with an interest in the environment.

Does not:
– Track your search history or personal information
– Create user profiles or share data with third parties
– Show personalized ads based on your queries

– Generate revenue to plant trees through search ads
– Provide search results exclusively from Bing
– Offer browser extensions for easy access
– Promote a transparent and privacy-friendly search experience

– Environmental support through tree planting
– Private search experience
– Search results from Bing
– Browser extensions for quick access

Price: Free


9. Gibiru

Gibiru logo.

Gibiru is a private search engine that provides uncensored and unfiltered search results. As the website says, “Our mission is to provide our users access to information outside of Big Tech’s censorship bubble and do so privately.” It offers a search experience free from cookies, logging, and targeted advertising. You can download the Gibiru Wormhole app on Android or iOS to search without a record of your searches or the sites you visit. Gibiru generates revenue through commissions on paid ads and affiliate links.

Best for: Users who want to explore search results without content censorship or tracking.

Does not:
– Censor search results or filter content
– Track your search history or personal data
– Share your data with third parties or advertisers
– Show personalized ads based on your queries

– Offer privacy-focused browsing without tracking
– Provide quick access to news and web search results
– Offer browser extension

– Gibiru Wormhole, a browserless app for anonymous internet access
– Chrome extension

Price: Free


10. WolframAlpha

Wolfram Alpha logo.

WolframAlpha isn’t technically a search engine; it’s considered an answer engine. It gathers data from academic sources to answer queries factually. It doesn’t track your searches and focuses on delivering accurate information. The interface offers entry points broken down into broad categories such as mathematics, or science and technology, and then sub-categories within those, such as physics, chemistry, and engineering. WolframAlpha generates revenue through its subscription model.

Best for: Users who seek factual and computational answers to their queries without sacrificing privacy.

Does not:
– Track your search history or personal information
– Create user profiles or show personalized ads
– Share your data with advertisers or third parties
– Compromise your privacy for the sake of computational knowledge

– Provide computational answers to factual queries
– Offer access to a wide range of data and information
– Assist with calculations, data analysis, and knowledge queries
– Ensure privacy while delivering accurate results

– Accurate answers to factual queries
– Calculations, data analysis, and knowledge retrieval

Price: Free, with an option to upgrade to Pro or Pro Premium


11. Brave Search

Brave Search logo.

Brave Search is a traditional search engine with a built-from-scratch index developed by the team behind the Brave browser. It aims to provide a transparent, unbiased search experience while protecting user data. Brave Search is available as the default search engine when using the Brave browser and most other major browsers. It doesn’t track or collect your data, so it doesn’t profit from selling it. Brave Search generates revenue through contextual advertising.

Best use case: Users who value privacy and want a search engine committed to transparency and neutrality.

Does not:
– Track your search history or personal data
– Create user profiles or show personalized ads
– Share your data with advertisers or third parties
– Compromise your privacy for the sake of search convenience
– Aggregate search results from other search engines

– Deliver transparent and unbiased search results
– Provide options for ad-supported or ad-free search experiences
– Work with most browsers

– Goggles feature (beta) allows you to apply a goggle to your search results
– Brave Shields blocks trackers, cross-site cookies, fingerprinting, and more
– Brave Wallet crypto wallet

Price: Free, with an option to upgrade to Brave Search Premium for an ad-free experience

Are private search engines actually private?

It’s virtually impossible to be completely private online, and different types of private search engines offer different levels of privacy to users. You should consider which privacy aspects are essential to you and choose a search engine that allows you the level of anonymity you’re comfortable with.

FAQ: Private search engines

Are private search engines legal to use?
How do private search engines make money?
How do I choose the best search engine for privacy?
How do I search privately on Google?
What is the safest and most private search engine?
Will private search engines use my data?
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