How much does your search engine know about you? The hope is “virtually nothing”, but in most cases that’s not true — using well-known search sites comes with tacit agreement to their data collection policies, which are often much wider in scope than many consumers believe.
To counter this concern, several free search engines now offer no-track services to help keep personal data in the hands of users rather than corporations. Are they worth a look?
So They Know a Couple Things…
Most search engines collect at least some user data, but in a security-conscious world there’s increasing scrutiny on what exactly gets collected, why, and how it ultimately gets used. Still, most users are happy enough to bring up their favorite search page and start looking under the assumption that there must be an upper limit on what’s allowable when it comes to tracking their virtual movements.
Want to protect your information online? One option is trying out ExpressVPN, which hides your IP address from prying eyes and encrypts all of your traffic so malicious actors and corporations can’t sneak a peek. Also gaining ground are private search engines; some pull results from “the big guys” and some use their own algorithms but none of them record anything about what you’re looking for, how you’re looking for it or why you care. Sure, it might mean fewer targeted results but for many that’s a small price to pay for data security. So what are some of the most popular no-track engines?
This one started up in 2007 with a simple mandate: “to give you great search results without tracking you.” DuckDuckGo uses a custom-designed algorithm to deliver answers and allows you to modify their search interface to suit your needs. The company also says that they “don’t collect any personal information and therefore, have none to share.” A community-based model helps drive improved service and translate answers into other languages. While privacy is never an issue for DuckDuckGo users, some forum-goers report slower than average search result times, but praise the engine’s overall flexibility.
One of the most popular no-track search engines, Ixquick began crawling the Web in 1998. It does not collect IP addresses or cookies, never collects personal data and offers a free proxy service to anonymously browse websites. The service creates custom search results by leveraging the power of popular search engines “simultaneously and anonymously.” Ixquick offers three key features: Advanced search, global search and power search. Advanced search allows users to define their search methods (Boolean, phrases, wildcard), and then sends the query to matching search engines. Global search provides access to worldwide search engines and in other languages, while power search refinement lets you find similar answers or ignore similar results based on your specific needs.
Ixquick also boasts the unique function of having a ‘proxy button underneath each search result. This allows the user to access the page via proxy retaining the privacy of the user. Obviously this means that Ixquick will have to retrieve the page first, slowing down the user experience – but if privacy is your main concern, waiting a couple of seconds won’t hurt.
We at ExpressVPN couldn’t recommend Ixquick enough, we like the homepage functions of being able to add the search engine as a Chrome plugin.
StartPage is another search engine from Ixquick, but one that focuses on Google results specifically. This is no surprise — according to Search Engine Land, Google gets 67.5 percent of US search traffic. StartPage grabs the best Google results for your search but without disclosing any of your personal information. In addition, the service offers URL generator which eliminates the need for cookies to remember your browser settings. In effect, it’s a private search engine for those who like Google results but take issue with their reach.
Want results without the privacy risk? Try a private service like DuckDuckGo, Ixquick or Startpage and make sure as you stare into the search engine abyss, it doesn’t stare back.