Use a Search Engine That Doesn’t Track You
Most search engines, including Google (in fact particularly Google), store information about you. This includes:
- Your IP address.
- Date and time of query.
- Query search terms.
- Cookie ID – this cookie is deposited in your browser’s cookie folder, and uniquely identifies your computer. With it, a search engine provider can trace a search request back to your computer.
The internet search engine as a rule transmits this data to the requested web page. It also transmits it to the owners of third party advertising banners on that page. As you surf the web, advertisers develop a (potentially embarrassing and highly inaccurate) profile of you.
This is then used to target adverts tailored to your theoretical needs.
In addition to this, governments and courts around the world regularly request search data from Google and other major search engines. This is usually duly handed over.
There are some search engines, however, that do not collect users’ data. These include:
DuckDuckGo pledges not to track it users. Each search event is anonymous. While in theory an infiltrator could track them, there is no profile attached for them to access.
DuckDuckGo says that it would comply with ordered legal requests, but as it doesn’t track users, “there is nothing useful to give them.” It can also be made to search most other popular search engines anonymously too.
Unfortunately, many users do not find DDG’s search results to be as good as those returned by Google. The fact that it is a US-based company also concerns some.
Another popular Google alternative is StartPage . It is based in the Netherlands and returns Google search engine results. StartPage anonymises these Google searches and promises not to store or share any personal information or use any identifying cookies.
By the same people who run StartPage, Ixquick returns results from a number of other search engines, but not Google. These searches are as private as those made through StartPage.
The above search engines rely on trusting the search engine providers to maintain your anonymity. If this really worries you, then you might like to consider YaCy . It is a decentralized, distributed search engine, built using P2P technology.
Less well-known, but fast gaining traction with the security community is SearX. Not only is SearX fully open source, but it is easy to setup and run your own instance of it. There is an official public SearX instance, or you can use one of many volunteer-run public instances. But what SearX is really about is running your own instance. This makes SearX the only metasearch engine where you can be 100 percent sure that no logs are kept!
There is no way to know if a public SearX instance operator is logging your searches. And this includes the official instance. That said, there is no way to guarantee that DDG, Startpage, or any other “private” search engines are not logging your searches either…
If you are serious about privacy, therefore, you should set up your own SearX instance. In fact, setting up your own SearX instance on a server that only you directly control is the only way currently available to guarantee that your searches are not logged.
This makes self-hosted SearX instances by far the most secure search engines available. Documentation for installing your own SearX instance is available here .
Using any of these services engines will greatly improve your search privacy.
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