Search engines have become so popular that it’s hard to imagine life without them. I mean, what would life be without Google, Bing, and even Yahoo!. They make life so much easier and convenient.
However, while it’s true they do make life easier, they aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. These search engines collect large amounts of data about you, and then monetize it through targeted ads, share with its partners, and even with the government at times.
In addition to your search queries, they track a lot of information about you – the sites you visit, your IP address, unique identifiers, user agent, who you communicate with, what you click on, and much more. The data about your interactions is collected, compiled, and linked to detailed digital profiles.
You’re the product now!
But you don’t have to be. I’ve compiled a list of truly secure and anonymous search engines that provide quick results without compiling your data.
Serious About Privacy? Stay Anonymous with CyberGhost
A private search engine is a good start, but it only stops one company from collecting your data. A VPN is a comprehensive online security tool that makes you completely anonymous online.
Why You Still Need a VPN - Even with Private Search Engines
Private search engines keep your data away from the reach of relentless marketing fodder. Put simply, they don’t track, store or sell your personal information.
However, they only protect your privacy while you’re making your searches. They can’t help you when you leave the Private Search Engine and visit other websites.
That’s where a VPN comes in. To put it simply, it connects you to a remote IP address that can’t be traced back to you. In fact, you can even get an IP address from a different region or country.
While connected, you’re essentially invisible online, and no one can see or track your online actions.
It conceals your online activity against governments, scammers, hackers, and marketing agencies. Whether you’re connecting to public WiFi or browsing from home, a VPN will hide and secure all your web traffic activity.
Not all VPNs are the same, and some might not be fully committed to your privacy. Therefore, it’s important to use a well-established VPN that has a reputation for not storing logs, selling data, or sharing user data with third parties.
Browse Anonymously with these Private VPNs:
CyberGhost – It’s a top-tier VPN service and one of the best for browsing the internet. Labeling itself as “superfast, ultra-secure and easy-to-use,” CyberGhost’s AES 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, no-log policy, and multiple VPN protocols come to the rescue from intruders.
NordVPN – With a handful of security features, NordVPN is an award-winning VPN that keeps your online antics 100% anonymous. Aside from military-grade encryption, the VPN offers tracking-blocking, ad-blocking, and anti-malware. Its interface is simple and straightforward.
Top-Rated Private Search Engines (Reviewed)
After reading through the privacy policies of many private search engines, I tested them to see the search results and to see if I saw any targeted ads based on my searches. These five search engines were the best ones that I tested.
DuckDuckGo – Simplifies Search Engine with Major Privacy Promises
DuckDuckGo is a pretty, best-in-class metasearch tool that never tracks your search queries while providing users with a first-class browsing experience. It gathers results from 400+ other sources, including Yahoo, Bing, and Wikipedia, to serve more than 10M searches a day.
Unlike other big tech companies, DuckDuckGo takes a different approach in that it blocks trackers while you’re browsing, making it harder for them to gobble up your data. It’s thereby an alternative that stands between your personal information (financial reports, searches, etc.) and online hackers.
The fact that DuckDuckGo offers a desktop extension and a mobile browser makes it a standout. Both promise to keep your search history anonymous and private in the best way you can think of. Other browsers such as Chrome let you use incognito windows that never track your searches.
But to finance its operations, DuckDuckGo makes money through advertisements and commissions paid by affiliate programs like Amazon and eBay. Going with what the company claims, this doesn’t mean they’re selling your data.
It’s a simple-to-use tool with a handful of features and settings. You can customize it by adjusting how the page appears and more. You can customize a lot of settings like alignment, auto-complete, scrolling, language, colors, etc.
Startpage - Never Tracks, Save, or Selling User Search History
Dubbed “the most sought-after private search engine”, Startpage promises to uphold your privacy. It delivers fast search results, a ton of customization settings, and super-safe browsing at all times.
Although Startpage pitches itself as a safe Google alternative, the relationship between the two is interesting. The Netherlands-based tool still enjoys the power and makes use of Google without any personal data collection, tracking, or targeted ads. Users are reassured of the internet without tracking.
One fascinating feature is the encrypted connection. Users can reroute traffic through a proxy instead of visiting a website directly. Upon choosing this option, the Startpage’s proxy server will sit between your desktop and the website so that its advertisers and third parties’ sites won’t track your steps.
Much like a VPN, this makes it tough for the website to use fingerprinting technologies and web tracking to identify and record you. It does away with cookies, and third-party invaders found on other sites, guaranteeing complete anonymity. This blocks malicious scripts as well.
Startpage is based in the Netherlands, so are its main servers. Here, privacy is protected by Dutch and EU laws. The search engine isn’t subject to the same laws hence nothing big to worry about. While it runs its own servers, I’m convinced that your IP addresses are concealed from government snooping. It has also passed the privacy audits done by a trusted 3rd party (Europrise Organization).
Its simplistic interface is pretty, clean, and user-friendly. You can customize the interface to various themes as per your preference. Beyond that, you can switch between designs and colors in a heartbeat. The new re-design is aesthetically pleasing.
Lastly, and the most important feature, is the ‘Anonymous View” that lets you visit sites completely anonymously. Simply click a link in Startpage’s result to visit the ite in question hassle-free.
Probably you’d ask, ‘what about the ads I see’. Well, Startpage, much like Google, has to make money, but these ads are contextual rather than behavioral – no build up of user profiles. Thanks to its able team of highly skilled developers who stays awake 24/7 to give support.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself today!
Swisscows – Offers Family-Friendly Content with Zero Tracking
The Switzerland-based search engine doesn’t track, collect or share your data such as IP addresses, search queries, or place cookies. It only records HTTP connection data necessary to troubleshoot and monitor Swisscows services. This allows the company to decide which features to implement next and stay live 24/7. And this also helps to filter out spam from the incoming search requests.
Swisscows runs its privately-owned servers in Switzerland, where privacy is protected by law. The jurisdiction has one of the stringent privacy policies. With its Datacenter in the Swiss Alps (the safest bunker in Europe), the company relies on its server infrastructure rather than cloud or third party. It has positioned everything outside the US and EU.
Well-known for its family-friendly content, this app offers a safe search experience to children. Swisscows is passionate about promoting moral values, digital media education. Even though it filters out pornography, violence, and abusive searches.
Although it partners with Bing, Swisscows is unique in how it delivers results. The semantic technology integrated determines the most useful results for you. Its webpage looks whimsical.
The interface is minimalist, modern yet user-friendly. In addition to searching the web, online fanatics can look for videos, images, or music. Filter your sort results by country, popularity to date. It will give you eight languages to choose from (English, Spanish, Italian, etc.).
But how does Swisscows generate money? Like other rivals, the company places ads without profiling your search history. The search engine largely relies on sponsorship and donations to keep up its operations.
Disconnect Search – Never Tracks Your Online Activities, Searches, and IP Address
Arguably the most privacy-oriented search engine, Disconnect Search has a longstanding record of superior user privacy. It fetches results from major search engines, much like Startpage. You can conduct anonymous searches through Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
The results you’re interested in are displayed in the same style of search engine you browse from. So, the results will visually please you like the one you get with DuckDuckGo.
And unlike most search engines, particularly Google, which stores your information, behavior, and search habits, this tool allows you to surf online without leaving a trace.
What’s new? Disconnect Search has recently arrived on Android. Just set it up, type in your search terms, and select the search engine of your choice. It also offers browser extensions to boost page load time.
Better still, the meta-search tool anonymizes your IP address, the query and blocks browser cookies. You can use Disconnect’s VPN to add another layer of privacy if anonymity is your priority.
Qwant – Promises Not To Log Your Search History
Most people are ditching popular search engines for Qwant, and there’s a reason for this. First off, it has made much-needed improvements lately with privacy and security in mind. What used to be tedious, daunting, and confusing is now intuitive.
Qwant takes Bing search results in a choice of over 5 languages to supplement its results before delivering them to the user. The move is enhanced without logging your searches. Its homepage does allow you to narrow your results to recent news, social trends, images, music, and more.
Signing up with Qwant is free. To register, you’re required to provide both your name and email address. The search engine uses these credentials to create logs and offer “personalized results” Once you become a member, you can save your searches as “favorites”.
Be it as it may, the company acknowledges that its profit-model includes ad monetization and affiliate deals with e-commerce sites like Trip advisor and eBay. But it prioritizes “user privacy first” per se.
The vast majority of users are comfortable with its aesthetically pleasing interface. Plus, the Settings enables you to filter results by age. For 100% anonymity, use Qwant with a VPN.
MetaGer – Takes Privacy More Seriously
A big win for MetaGer search engine is its exceptional dedication to user’s data privacy. The company gives you the right to secure your online life without a hitch. Like some providers we’ve reviewed above, it queries up to 50 search engines (top results come from Bing).
While this gives depth to its results, MegaGer gets rid of the clickthrough rate when it processes queries. The source code is free, which means its algorithms are available for everyone to view and read. Be rest assured of unbiased and unfiltered results.
Owned by the German non-profit organization (SUMA-EV), MetaGer protects user’s privacy. It’s even enforcing the use of the Tor network on its onion site, adding to the sense of trust. We’re glad to hear that all of its servers run on renewable energy.
Its route planner and map service don’t monitor your locations. On a good note, the tool gives you an “open anonymously” option to mask your IP address.
The profit model involves membership fees in the form of contributions. Even though MetaGer doesn’t stack up well against top contenders in our list, it’s worth trying out nonetheless.
How We Ranked the Private Search Engines
Private search engines allow you to browse the web, but there’s more than just using these tools. Now that nearly everyone is working from home, keeping your data private is critical. How do I choose a private-oriented search engine from plenty of options?
Does it maintain privacy?
Check out what data the search engine shares to third parties or information being passed off to search partners like Google and Bing. Many companies don’t maintain user’s privacy as they claim to.
You’d want the private search engine of your choice not to keep a record of your personal searches, IP addresses, or share any unique identifier’s string. Choose a platform that doesn’t abuse your privacy.
In which jurisdiction is the search engine?
Server location is another obvious factor. In some countries, data and privacy are protected by law (no data retention laws) – Switzerland is a good example. Any Company based here doesn’t build tracking profiles for its users due to strict privacy laws.
Some countries, the US, for example, services are subject to the National Security Letters, Patriot Act and may be forced to hand over data to the government due to gag orders.
First, understand which laws each jurisdiction has to abide by. They all handle data differently.
Does it deliver accurate or unbiased results?
In addition to privacy, your private search engine should as well deliver quality results at the end of the day. Anybody would want a service that answers all queries, gives accurate results, and sorts them correctly as per your user’s expectations. But it shouldn’t share your searches with third parties.
What features does it offer?
Some useful features like encrypted connection, anonymous view via proxy servers, extensions, plugins, and mobile apps add value to search engines.
Does it have an intuitive interface?
While private search engines keep your identity private, some come at the cost of a baggy and clunky interface. A user-friendly interface will suit beginners as well. A familiar interface makes you feel at home.
Does it offer mobile apps?
A couple of years ago, Google, through its leadership, reported that they process about 60% of search requests from mobile devices over desktops. Mobile apps for your handheld devices will be of your utmost importance.
The Best VPNs in 2022
CyberGhost Review: Optimized Servers but Is It Still Secure in 2022?
Don’t surrender your data to your ISP, third parties, and unknowns. Use a private search engine to improve your security and privacy online. But, choosing the best private search engine can be an intimidating task.
Be sure to use a reputable VPN. A VPN is a powerful virtual guard that allows you to roam freely online without being caught or intercepted.