Private Search Engines
Google Search is the world’s most popular search engine, which collects information on everything you search for. This data is then combined with the trove of other data Google collects about you via its other products and services and third-party apps and websites that contain Google tracking to build a detailed profile of your online activity.
Not only is this data used to build a personal advertising profile to you, but in some instances, Google hands over users’ data to law enforcement, based on the terms they searched for.
In addition to the privacy concerns, Google heavily editorializes its search results by shadowbanning and suppressing some stories, letting one perspective dominate the search results for some topics, and “fact-checking” its search results. It has also been accused of boosting certain outlets in its search results, maintaining search blacklists, and censoring some of its autosuggest results.
If you’re tired of Google’s mass data collection and editorialization of its search results, consider one of these private search engines. Some collect no personal data at all while others collect a minimal amount to return their search results.
Studies on some of these private search engines have also shown that their auto-complete suggestions and the domains that appear in their search results are far more diverse than those offered by Google.
Take a look at the private search engines below and tell your friends and family to start using them instead of Google Search.
privacy-focused search engine from the creators of the popular Brave browser that’s based in the US.
It vows to never track you, your searches, or your clicks and claims that this stance makes it impossible for Brave Search to share, sell, or lose your data.
Brave Search does temporarily process IP addresses to detect and prevent bots but this data isn’t retained and is deleted within seconds. If you change settings in Brave Search, it also uses anonymous cookies to remember your preferences. These anonymous cookies use the same cookie names and set of cookie values for all users to prevent them being used to identify anyone.
By default, Brave also uses your IP address once for each location-based query and collects anonymous usage metrics but this data collection can be enabled or disabled at any time.
Brave Search has built its own index from scratch which means it can offer fully independent search results that don’t rely on Big Tech or other third parties. Its results are also constantly refined via anonymous, opt-in community contributions.
Over 90% of queries are answered via this search index but Brave Search will anonymously fetch the remaining results from Google and Bing. You can see the percentage of search results that came from Brave’s index for a specific query by clicking or tapping the “Info” link on any results page. You can also view the overall percentage of search results that came from Brave’s index in the settings panel.
Some of Brave Search’s top features include its search shortcuts (which can be used to quickly navigate to search results on specific sites), visual autosuggest, search filters (that let you filter by format, date, country, and more), extra search filter parameters for images and videos, featured snippets, and shelves that highlight recent news and videos.
A search engine based in the Netherlands and claims to be “the world’s most private search engine.”
Startpage serves Google Search results while promising to protect user privacy. It vows to no log search queries or IP addresses (except when it detects automated search requests that rapidly submit more queries to its servers than a normal human user) and to not serve any tracking or identifying cookies. Additionally, Startpage says it will never comply with any voluntary surveillance program and is fully compliant with the European Union’s (EU’s) General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Anonymized search queries are sent to Google to return search results to users and some non-identifying system information is shared with Google to retrieve the Google Adsense links that monetize Startpage. Startpage also anonymously determines the frequency of popular search keywords as part of its anti-abuse measures. Additionally, it uses anonymous analytics to measure overall traffic and collect information about user operating systems, browsers, and languages without associating it with individual users.
One of Startpage’s unique search features is “Anonymous View” which lets you visit the websites in search results through a Startpage proxy. This proxy makes it appear as if Startpage is visiting the website and hides your IP address, masks your browser fingerprint, blocks all non-Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) connections, and guards against trackers.
Other features include Instant Answers, search suggestions, search filters (that let you filter by formate, date, and country), a family filter toggle, and themes.
StartPage has a desktop browser extension that sets Startpage as your default search engine, blocks cookies and trackers, prevents fingerprinting, and displays a privacy score for the websites you visit. The extension is available for Chrome and Firefox.
One thing to note is that Startpage received significant investment from the US ad tech company System 1 in 2019. However, in a statement about the investment, Startpage said user privacy is still the company’s number one priority and that the Startpage founders still have full control over all of Startpage’s privacy implementations.
DuckDuckGo offers a Tor onion version of its search engine for Privacy. If you like DuckDuckGo, you may be interested in its browser, too. The company already has browsers for mobile devices and has recently developed a desktop browsers for the macOS version, now in private beta.
A UK based search engine that’s private, unbiased, and hosted from the UK’s greenest data centre.
Mojeek was the first privacy-oriented search engine with a no tracking policy which it introduced in 2006. To maintain user privacy, it promises no tracking or profiling of your search history, IP address, or click data. It doesn’t place any cookies by default and if cookies are required to provide services, such as setting your personal preferences, Mojeek will ask for your consent. Additionally, it has a specific page that shows you any active cookies and makes it easy to delete them.
The only data Mojeek stores is aggregate non-personal search data and anonymous logs which contain time of visit, page requested, a two-letter code that indicates the country of origin, and possibly referral data.
It has a huge index of almost four billion pages which helps it provide independent, bias-free results. Mojeek says its algorithm doesn’t support any particular view and ranks pages based on their relevancy to the search term.
Search results can be filtered by organized into web, images, and news categories and filtered by region. Mojeek also has extensive search settings options that let you set the number of results per domain, set ranking preferences (that take into account when a page was last modified or crawled), and more.
Mobile apps that make it easy to search via Mojeek are available for both Android and iOS.
Gibiru ia a private search engine which was founded in the US and has been active for more than a decade.
Their mission is to provide its users with “access to information outside of Big Tech’s censorship bubble and do so privately.”
To provide access to information that’s usually censored by Big Tech, Gibiru has two sets of results – “All Results” and “Censored Content.”
All Results displays a set of results similar to those on other search engines while Censored Content displays an alternative set of results that don’t rank highly for the term in Google Search and is used.
Gibiru results can be filtered by web, images, videos, and news. For video results, you can also rank the results by upload date and length and filter the results by specific video lengths.
A private, decentralized, blockchain-powered search engine that’s based in Canada and has an integrated cryptocurrency.
Presearch’s search indexes are built and hosted by a decentralized network of node operators. Search queries are sent to a node gateway server that anonymizes the search query (by removing the user’s IP address, device information, and any tracking codes) and passed to a node which completes the search and passes the results back to the gateway which creates a result set for the user.
Node operators and users are rewarded with the integrated PRE cryptocurrency while advertisers can stake PRE tokens to display their ads against specific keywords.
While searches are anonymized, Presearch may collect your IP address and information about your device, browser, type, and operating system. Additionally, to receive cryptocurrency rewards, you’ll need to create a user account and search while signed in which may lead to the collection of information such as location and time of last search.
Presearch’s features include search result knowledge panels, a news shelf, a video shelf, quick links to related articles and related searches, and a quick link for sharing your search results.
Results can be filtered to display just images, videos, or news. Presearch also has quick links for conducting your search via other sites.
It has a mobile browser app for Android and desktop browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox that set Presearch as the default search engine and start page.
Openverse is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone.
Openverse searches across more than 300 million images from open APIs and the Common Crawl dataset. It goes beyond simple search to aggregate results across multiple public repositories into a single catalog, and facilitates reuse through features like machine-generated tags and one-click attribution.
Currently Openverse only searches images and audio, with search for video provided through External Sources. But they plan to add additional media types such as open texts and 3D models, with the ultimate goal of providing access to the estimated 2.5 billion CC licensed and public domain works on the web. All of their code is open source (Openverse frontend, Openverse API, Openverse Catalog).
Openverse is the successor to CC Search which was launched by Creative Commons in 2019, after its migration to WordPress in 2021. Openverse remain committed to tackling discoverability and accessibility of open access media.
A private search engine with no analytics, no cookies, no IP logging, and no user agent logging. Search queries are temporarily cached but not stored permanently.
Peekier’s name is derived from the way it lets you privately peek at the pages listed in search results before visiting the site. It does this by generating a preview on its servers and then sending it to your browser as an image. Since Peekier renders this preview, any tracking analytics or cookies are stripped out before you view it.
Additionally, Peekier automatically upgrades unencrypted (HTTP) links in its search results to an encrypted (HTTPS) connection where possible.
It has a unique visual grid layout that lets you display results and image previews with a density of two, three, or four results per line. Other features include the ability to toggle autosuggestions, image preview quality, and video link embeds (note: if you enable video link embeds, Peekier won’t be able to block any associated analytics, cookies, or tracking features from the video provider).