From the students who use Google to research their projects to those who use Yahoo or Bing to find and keep up to date with relevant news in their industry, the importance of search engines cannot be underestimated.
But these popular search engines don’t just make life easy for all. It comes at a price.
While making information available to users, these popular search engines also collect data about the users of their tools. While using their services, these standard search engines track and record everything you search for – including your IP address, the search terms used and more.
They in turn, use this information to tailor what you see whenever you enter a keyword into the search box. The data is used to make assumptions based on the information related to the user, such as former click behavior, browsing history, search history and their location. For that reason, the websites are more likely to present only information that will abide to the user's past activity. If you’ve heard of filter bubble before, this is how the whole theory works.
The upside is that most of the time, you get what you’re searching for: information. The downside is that the information collected can then be used to hit you with targeted ads or sold to third parties.
So, what can be done to avoid this? With increased state surveillance, countless security breaches and widespread concern about data sharing, how can you go about protecting your privacy while also enjoying the best results from your searches?
Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the cloning of your private local area network which in turn extends across a public network which is the internet. They come in the form of software and connect you to a VPN server on the internet which then transfers all your data, anonymously this time around, to your required destination.
If you’ll like to try out VPN services, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are really great options for you.
Stay logged out
If you are a user of any of the services of these search engines, you may want to log out first before using the search engine. It sounds like a lot of work but it’s what needs to be done to secure your privacy.
Whether it’s the cloud storage service, email service or the maps, staying logged in while making searches may be an avenue for the search engines to link your search data to your name and email address/account.
Use private search engines
This is yet another way to secure your privacy while searching for information online. For those wondering, private search engines work exactly like every other search engine that you know. The only exception is that unlike the more popular search engines, they don’t gather, store or process any information about you or your searches.
When you search with one of these search engines, your searches aren’t linked to your computer or your email account. It’s one of the best ways to make searches that won’t lead to your information being used by advertisers to target you.
Just as there are different VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, there are also a number of private search engines out there for you to use. But which anonymous search engines are the best for 2019?
According to Wikipedia, DuckDuckGo (DDG) is an Internet search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers' privacy and avoiding the filter bubble of personalized search results. Gabriel Weinberg, who is the founder of the search engine, has once been quoted as saying,”We protect your search history, even from us.”
Apart from enabling users to remain anonymous while browsing, DuckDuckGo servers also have some features which make it attractive. There’s free space to store data in the cloud for you, as the users change the ‘settings’ of the location which in turn makes it impossible to track your internet connection. If you’re concerned about the credibility of the search results, DuckDuckGo generates search results from over 400 sources, some of which include Wikipedia and Yahoo.
If you’re looking to get Google results while also not giving too much away, Startpage is the private search engine for you. With advanced filtering options and the ability to search for pictures and videos, this search engine does better than most of the alternatives you’ll find on the internet.
Every search result you get on Startpage comes with a proxy link through which you can view the search result. The functionality of this search engine can be likened to the way a proxy works. When the user’s input is taken, the user’s IP address is not used for collecting the data. It is instead changed while searching.
In the “About Us” section of their website, it is clearly stated that they do not collect or share any personal information.
3. Disconnect Search
Their slogan is descriptive enough: “stop search engines from tracking your searches.” The way they do this is by disassociating you, the user from the websites or interfaces that have right to track the footprints (or fingerprints since you’re typing) you leave while making queries online.
Although it is primarily a browser-based search tool, you can also use Disconnect Search through their website. It’s one of the few private search engines that offer VPN and a privacy browser as part of their other privacy tools.
You don’t have to worry about the kind of results you will be getting with this private search engine as it sources its search results from other major search engines.
It’s important to note that this list of private search engines is in no particular order. Regardless of which one you choose to use, you still get neutral search results while protecting your personal information and ensuring your privacy online.