There was a time when we’d sell privacy for convenience. It wasn’t too long ago. With big tech companies like Google and Apple offering users smoother online experiences in exchange for data, many were happy to give up their data privacy if it streamlined their online lives.
Today, there’s a hard pushback against this privacy for convenience trade off, and it’s starting with Google. Google currently owns around 86% of the global search engine market share. However, with more and more concerns about data privacy leaks and privacy in general, people are looking for Google alternatives; and they’re starting with their search engines.
The growing need for data privacy search engines
Scandals like these are encouraging consumers and businesses alike to sit up and understand data privacy laws. More and more users are jumping the Google ship, or at least attempting to minimize the amount of personal data handed over to Google—and for good reason.
Today, we’re helping you do the same. Of course, if you’re already looking at DuckDuckGo then you know the importance of data privacy. In this article, we’ll share five alternatives to the popular data-privacy-conscious search engine that perhaps you haven’t encountered yet. Happy surfing.
5 Best DuckDuckGo alternatives
First up on the list is Searx, a metasearch engine. Searx combines more than 70 online search engines, and aggregates the findings for you. The highlight of this search engine? You’re not tracked or profiled. You’re a new user, every time.
Plus, if you’re a little more tech-savvy, you’ve got a few configurations of the search engine to play around with; including:
- Adding/removing search engines you want Searx to consider
- Rewriting HTTP to HTTPS
It’s worth noting there’s no one domain set for hosting this search engine, so it may take a little while to find if you’re not hosting it yourself. Plus, it’s not the most stunning UI. However, if privacy is what you’re after as your top priority then this one’s a great go-to.
Qwant is a stunning, privacy-first search engine. You’ve probably noticed that the UI of a lot of these data-conscious search engines is not as well-maintained as they could be, however, Qwant is an exception to this trend.
Quant states they do not track or collect user’s data. It strives to deliver unbiased and unfiltered results. This means you can say goodbye to personalized ads going off your search history, if that’s something that frustrates you!
All of Quant’s servers are based in Europe and subject to European legislation. That’s a good thing, the data privacy laws in Europe are much stricter than other areas of the world, like the United States.
3. Search Encrypt
Search Encrypt is a search engine that's core value is, you guessed it, privacy. The extension tracks searches that may be tracking or exploiting your personal data. The plug-in will then intercept those searches and redirect them to Search Encypt’s search engine.
The platform also offers advanced encryption techniques: “Search Encrypt forces an advanced SSL encryption with perfect forward secrecy and also encrypts your search term locally before being sent to our servers.”
Lastly, your history expires after 30-minutes, whether you want it to or not. Keep your search that little bit more private.
Hailed by The NewYork Times, USA today, and Forbes, Startpage is definitely one of the most user-friendly DuckDuckGo alternatives on the market. It’s aimed at the everyday user and breaks down data privacy into bite-sized chunks that everyone can digest.
The search engine ensures your searches remain private—they’re not saved or sold for future advertising purposes. It also communicates with sites you’ve visited on your behalf, communicating your privacy preferences so you don’t have to.
Startpage gives you a great overview of how well a website is doing when it comes to data privacy. If you’re ever unsure about the legitimacy of a site’s privacy status, then Startpage will clear things up pretty fast. Your reports will look something like this:
Plus, their chrome plug-in automatically blocks trackers and cookies. You can finally say goodbye to clicking “reject all,” or having to navigate a cumbersome process to get there.
The search engine will offer advertisements based on your search terms and rough location, they do this in order to keep the search engine afloat and the lights on. This information is not stored, so you won’t be profiled or receive retargeting ads further down the line.
Alternative solutions for search engine privacy
There are a few ‘homemade’ tricks you can implement to create a more private search experience, regardless of your search engine. Although these tricks take a little know-how and patience, they’re worth it.
Use a VPN
VPN’s aren’t only for helping you get that Netflix series that’s only available on another continent. They can do so much more for your data privacy. VPNs are great for helping you hide your IP address to avoid location-specific ads, or being profiled. They can also help you to hide your browsing activity and protect personal information.
However, finding a VPN that actually works is a task in itself. Here’s a list to get you started:
If you want true value out of your VPN you’ll often have to pay for it. Although it's never going to be bank-breaking, it’s definitely worth knowing.
Reject all cookies
Typically, we’d never tell anyone to reject an offering of cookies. However, these cookies aren’t so sweet. If you’ve got the patience to filter through that data each website is collecting on you, and you want to hold on to your privacy, then there’s the option to deselect any unnecessary cookies.
The process will look a little something like you can see in the Forbes example above. You’ll be surprised by the amount of cookies a website uses to track you, however, in selecting only those that enable the site to work properly, you’re holding on to at least some of your privacy.
Clear your cache
Clearing your cache clears all of your data stored on the browser. This helps protect your personal data by deleting information that websites and online applications store, per visit. For example, if you’re looking for flights and are finding yourself going down a wormhole where the flight you want keeps increasing in price, try clearing your cache and starting from scratch.
Clearing your cache is also a great way to troubleshoot recurring problems on websites you’re visiting, it eradicates form data you may have input, and enables websites to treat you as a new user.
This is a super simple solution, and most commonly used for shared devices like family or work computers. Why? Incognito browsing won’t save your browsing history, cookies and site data, or information entered in forms.
It’s a good idea to go incognito if you’re ever doing research for a surprise birthday gift for example, this way you won’t receive retargeting adverts when your loved one is sitting next to you!
The future is privacy-first
That’s a wrap on privacy-first search engines. The world is definitely shifting to be more aware of data, and the value it carries. People would rather hold on to it today and battle a slight inconvenience than give their private information away.
With close to 80% of internet users across the world feeling like they’ve completely lost control over their online privacy, there’s a gap in the market for change.
It’s up to businesses to respect and champion this shift and desire for privacy. Those businesses that are looking to gain trust and sentiment with potential customers may consider how they can utilize minimal data in order to maximize their customer relationships.
Besides, if close to 90% of Americans—alone—have made attempts to erase completely or reduce their digital footprint, there’s no wonder there’s now a massive desire for privacy-first search engines like DuckDuckGo.
Hopefully you’ve found a new service or hack to help you join the trend towards a more private online experience. Happy browsing—hopefully, we’ll never know!