Popular search sites, including Google, Yahoo, and Bing, officially trace users’ online activities. These browsing sites keep the log of searches, browser cookies, IPs, location, and device information for advertising agencies, thereby increasing the risk of privacy breaches. That’s where private search engines come into play. These platforms do not log users’ activities and prevent other web tracking entities from getting your traces. This guide lists the best search engines you can use for private, safe, and anonymous internet browsing.
Do you think searching on Google merely in incognito mode actually keeps your searches private? Not really. Your inquiries are never private unless you seek more secure alternatives, no matter which search engines you use.
When someone refers to search engines, you can safely assume they are talking about Google. As of May 2022 statistics, it attracts 95.91% of mobile search traffic worldwide. While the laptop/desktop share of Google stands at a slightly lower number being 85.42%, it is still the leading search engine there, too.
According to the industry estimates by the Internet Live Stats, Google handles almost 9 billion searches a day on average. And the number of people using the search giant daily comes to more or less 1.7 billion.
These stats show how dominant Google is in the market. Also, this hints at the potential treasure trove of data Google holds because, as you’d already know, it tracks your searches.
But that doesn’t make it the only search engine responsible for breaching users’ privacy. Instead, the relatively less popular tools like Yahoo, Bing, and others also practice the same money-making strategy, i.e., monetizing users’ data.
Precisely, all the top search engines like Google serve as data compilation tools for advertising companies helping them go on you with targeted ads.
Therefore, unless you use a secure search engine, your information ends up in the hand of a third party, and you (the user) becomes the product.
To give you an idea, below is some of the information that Google and other widely-used search engines gather when you use them:
- Search queries
- Browser cookies
- IP address
In other words, the more prominent search engines (that are not private) collect data on what ads you click, the videos you watch, your location, cookie data, IP address, and device information.
These popular search engines keep saying they use your information only to ‘make adverts relevant‘ and do not sell user data to any third party.
On the contrary, not too long ago, in September 2019, Google was accused of feeding advertisers with users’ personal data.
Do you want to search the web without compromising your privacy? Then you better use one of the privacy-focused search engines that we will cover in this article.
But before that, let’s uncover some essential basics.
Quick list of alternative search engines that won’t track you
Are you in a rush? No problem. Check out our list of three best secure searching options you can use today:
- SwissCows: An innovative, secure research solution that does not store your data. It has positioned everything outside of the EU and the US geographically.
- Yippy: A metasearch tool with the ability to query multiple search engines. It allows users to combine the displayed results as cloud, a group, or on one screen.
Want to see more options? Perfect. This guide covers 12 in total. Continue reading to read about all in detail.
How does a search engine work?
We usually mean internet search engines when we speak of a search engine.
These web applications enable internet users to search the World Wide Web and get a list of results matching their search query. The basis of the web search is a database of indexed sites created by the respective provider.
What is a private search engine?
A search engine can disclose your private data like employment status, political beliefs, medical conditions, financial information, and other personal information. For this, the provider gathers, saves, and associates the aggregated data with your data profile.
To successfully keep your data private, you need to keep it away from the reach of data collectors. That’s where the private search engines come into play.
A secure search engine does not track user data and returns results with additional protection and data privacy levels.
Secure search engines do not track your steps online or store search queries. They, in fact, boast a range of methods and features for keeping your searches secure.
Why use a privacy-focused search engine
Search engines, like Google, have become indispensable tools in the day-to-day lives of the netizens.
As highlighted in the beginning, let it be desktop or mobile users, the vast majority of internet users rely on Google.
Yes, Google is the most popular by far, but it also has its disadvantages in everything related to privacy.
The tech giant collects information about everything we search using it, which according to the company, serves the purpose of user experience improvement.
Because of that, if two individuals look for the same thing, you might not see the same results or ads.
The feature may be useful for many. But it does not stop bothering those who are most concerned about their privacy.
On the other hand, private search engines believe whether you look for videos of sleeping kittens or how the financial market stands, it all reflects your personal preferences and, therefore, should remain private.
Many internet users do not appreciate that Google does not allow them to remain anonymous.
Through your account and its free tools, Google constantly seeks to identify you better to benefit advertisers who will find it easier to set targets for their advertisements.
That is one of the primary factors that encouraged more and more internet users to use secure Google alternatives in the last few years.
However, it is worth noting that Google is not the only one to store your private data.
Bing, the second most used search engine in the world, does that too. Its relevance, which it derives from its sophisticated algorithm, only makes things tough for the most demanding internet users.
Microsoft owns and operates this search engine. It has been in talks since the Prism affair (NSA’s surveillance program), which encourages internet users to avoid using it.
What to look for in a privacy-oriented search engine?
When it’s about searching anything on the internet, the first thing that comes to mind without a doubt is Google, the biggest search engine with which one can find virtually anything.
Although, Google exhibits undeniable accuracy and speed in helping us find what we want. However, users’ privacy remains at stake when using it as it keeps collecting data and using them for commercial purposes.
Since Google and other popular engines track users’ data for both their own use and that of third parties, people keep turning to privacy-focused search engines.
But you must be thinking, how do I pick the most secure search engine?
It would be best if you considered some essential things to ensure that your chosen alternative search engine values privacy in reality.
A genuinely anonymous web engine lives up to the following criteria:
- It provides settings for a customized experience.
- Boasts an easy-to-use interface.
- Delivers appropriate (accurate) search results.
- Maintains your privacy (does not track any data).
- It does not use tracking cookies.
- A trusted team or firm runs it.
Best private search engines for 2022
Finding the top encrypted search engine for your exclusive needs is an individual process (with numerous factors to consider). As a result, no particular solution might suit everyone equally.
Preferably, the tool should provide accurate results regarding your privacy.
Luckily, several high-quality anonymous search engines exist today, offering various methods and features to keep your researched search terms safe.
The majority of these secure internet research engines do not have exquisite features. Yet, they provide you with a private, safe, and fair way to look for things important to you.
Listed below are the fifteen most secure search engines that you can use for your next information lookup online:
DuckDuckGo, abbreviated as DDG, is a user-friendly search engine that does not track any of your information, even your IP address.
It is the most widely-used privacy-focused search engine, receiving around 100 million daily average queries.
Concerning its features, while using DuckDuckGo, you get unpaginated results. Also, the results include favicons symbols on the side that makes recognizing your favorite web spaces easy.
With DDG, you get almost the same experience as with traditional search engines (but in a unique way).
Since it aims to protect your privacy, you might notice it lacks a few functions, such as image filtering by licensed tailored ads (that is a good thing).
DuckDuckGo boasts a mighty metasearch engine that collects results from over 400 sources, including Yahoo, Bing, Wikipedia, and Yandex.
However, a couple of things might make someone with a 100% anonymity goal uncomfortable.
As per the disclosure available on DDG’s site, they save all the search queries of users.
As this web engine does not record your User-agent strings or IP address, the data collected is not in a personally identifiable manner. However, the very fact can still make some people run away from giving it a try.
Another not-so-cool thing with DuckDuckGo is that it is based in the United States and runs on the US Amazon servers.
As the U.S lacks adequate pro-consumer internet privacy laws, being based in it can be a drawback for this well-known privacy search engine to many users.
2. Hulbee (now redirected to Swisscows.com)
Hulbee offers total privacy regarding both your search terms and location history. Plus, it does not record or store any of the data that can identify you.
The privacy-oriented search solution gets that done using encryption, which prevents information leakage.
It also lets you select a region for more relevant results. Besides, the semantic map of this privacy-first engine enables you to have an interactive research experience.
This private Google alternative is an ideal search engine for the family as its search results never include sexual or pornographic content.
Yippy allows you to filter the results manually according to various categories and mark any result as inappropriate.
Unlike other search engines, with Yippy, you can look up content of a very diverse nature, such as web, news, images, government data, jobs, blogs, etc.
It neither records your searches nor shows custom ads. (That is the reason why it is on this list). However, similarly to Google (in a good way), it does allow users to view the cached pages.
It is a platform that defines itself as the most private search engine in the world since “it does not register, track or share your personal data.”
StartPage makes its users browse through a proxy server, thus protecting them from sites tracking their location or IP addresses.
In October 2019, System1, a US ad-tech firm, acquired major shares in Startpage via its subsidiary Privacy One Group Ltd. This raises the question, “is StartPage safe?”
Answering this thing in detail on their website, Startpage confirmed operating under the EU data privacy laws.
While this sounds relieving, another problem with this firm is its base in The Netherlands – a part of the Nine Eyes alliance.
So, even though StartPage makes it to this list of the best anonymous search engines, I recommend you remain a bit cautious when using it.
That’s because of the new Startpage owners and board members’ underlying risk of potentially collecting users’ personal data as they are an ad-tech company. But yes, its “Anonymous View” feature, the private browsing mode of this search engine, is a pro that outshines most of the cons.
This search engine encrypts user data and prevents it from falling into the hands of third parties.
It works faster than most encrypted search engines. That’s because it uses “Google Custom Search” to provide quality service while eliminating all tracking methods that Google applies.
So, Gibiru itself is not a custom-built privacy-focused search engine. Instead, it is a web tool based on Google but with privacy concerns eliminated from it.
Gibiru was launched in 2009 with a community effort, and it remains so as it has not made the transition towards seeking any external funding.
6. Disconnect Search (search.disconnect.me)
The slogan of this search engine tells it all: “prevent search engines from tracking your device.”
It utilizes the content search assistance feature from the industry leaders like Bing, Yahoo, and Google. But it does not track your internet activities, IP address, or search terms.
This privacy-friendly engine also offers a premium VPN (that costs $50/year) and a privacy browser as part of its privacy products on offer. Certainly, this is a rare move as compared to similar engines.
WolframAlpha is an anonymous search engine specially designed for answering queries in specific areas, such as science, literature, engineering, or geography.
It is more similar to an encyclopedia, so it is a go-to privacy-oriented search engine for knowledge seekers worldwide.
This knowledge-packed secure search engine spits the results by performing dynamic calculations using integrated algorithms.
Like all other contenders on the list in this article, WolframAlpha does not track or record your search queries.
Lukol delivers customized search results from Google by utilizing the enhanced custom search of the tech giant. Thanks to its proxy server that the web research tool uses.
It ensures your privacy by eliminating any traceability or traceable data.
Lukol is considered one of the best minimal private search engines to protect personal information online. The service also keeps you safe from inadvertently landing on inappropriate sites due to misleading advertising.
This anonymous search engine allows searching for web, images, news, and videos.
MetaGer allows you to perform confidential non-traceable online searches that leave no traces.
It also integrates a proxy server. Hence, you can open any link anonymously from the search results pages and keep your IP address hidden from the destination server.
Also, you can rest assured not to encounter any annoying or targeted ads, as this privacy search engine does not track the keywords you search for.
A nonprofit organization, which does not pursue any commercial interests, runs this secure alternative to mainstream browsers.
Peekier (pronounced / ‘pi • ki • er /) is a new way of searching the web privately.
With this user-friendly alternative to Google, you get to look at the search results quickly and safely.
It functions uniquely compared to the other privacy-oriented Google search alternatives and the commonly used mainstream ones.
This search engine shows you a preview of all the relevant pages after entering a query. Clicking on a result enlarges the preview and allows you to scroll through the site.
You can then see beforehand whether the information shown on the site interests you before clicking on the link.
The mechanism on whom this privacy-oriented search engine works is simple; it allows fewer sites to know the user – mostly the ones a user trusts.
With a design similar to Google, Qwant basically serves as an alternative that focuses on data protection.
This search engine is committed to good causes. It means whatever money it makes, it spends that on things like charity or planting trees.
Like other best web research engines available, it allows you to search for news, images, sites, and information on social networks (Twitter only).
Besides, it has different tabs such as Qwant Music or Qwant Boards, where consumers can share different multimedia content.
The search engine also boasts a kid’s mode where it only shows the protected content and promotes educational stuff.
YaCy goes its own way. The search engine runs on its very own software, and instead of relying on central servers like Google and other typical search engines do, YaCy is a peer-to-peer project.
To participate in the search network, you need to download the corresponding open-source software.
The software is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. The project receives support from the Institute of Technology from Karlsruf and SUMA eV, an association for free access to knowledge.
VPN for maximizing your online privacy
Even if you pick a secure search engine, it cannot prevent sites you visit from tracking your information.
All the private search engines clearly mention on their terms and policy pages that they cannot protect you once you click on a search result to visit a third-party site.
Today any website you visit online tracks your use through cookies. In contrast, some of the larger platforms built on sophisticated tech can even record your IP address.
ISPs (Internet Services Providers) track user activities and sell the collected data to advertisers in many countries.
Moreover, hackers, corporations, government agencies, and scammers keep tracking you online to launch attacks on their interests.
Hence, a VPN can be your best line of defense for avoiding all these troubles.
Thanks to its military-grade AES encryption, a quality VPN like ExpressVPN disguises your device when it contacts websites.
It also encrypts the data you send or receive over the internet, making your information unreadable to anyone intercepting your traffic, including your ISP.
Besides, additional features such as kill switch, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, IP cloaking, and ad blockers protect your location, data, and anonymity online.
Most premium quality VPN services, e.g., ExpressVPN and NordVPN, boast these features.
That is why even if you use a security-oriented search engine, you should use a VPN too for the maximum possible privacy online.
In brief, using a VPN provides you:
- Better privacy.
- Top-notch security.
- Access to more websites. (You can unblock any popular streaming service including HBO Go and Netflix.)
- Almost completely anonymous online experience.
How can I delete my Google history
If you do not want to keep a record of the pages you have visited with Google, you can delete all or part of your browsing history easily.
Please note that deleting your browsing history affects all devices where you are signed in to your Google account and have the sync feature turned on.
Clear your search history
- Open Chrome on your computer.
- Click on the More (the three verticle dots icon you see in the upper right corner).
- Tap on History.
- Locate and press Clear browsing data (it should be on the left in a box).
- Select the choice of history you wish to delete from the drop-down menu. To clear everything, select ALL.
- Click on boxes for the data you wish for Google to clear, as well as Browsing history.
- Finally, press Clear data.
Private browsing: If you do not want Google to save any of your browsing activities in the first place, you can use private mode for log-free internet browsing.
Whether you use a computer, Android, or iPhone, surfing in Google Chrome’s private browsing mode is a simple three-step process. For that:
- Open Chrome
- Click on More (the three dots you see in the top right corner)
- Check for the Incognito icon and select it. (It will more likely be the third option in the dropdown menu that appears). A new browser window will open, clearly mentioning incognito browsing.
How to set a different default search engine on your web browser
Someone might want to set a different search engine on their browser for various reasons.
One such reason may be that users tend to switch their browser’s default engine to a security-focused search engine such as DuckDuckGo.
Chrome accounts for more than half of all web traffic worldwide (62.78% to be specific, as of February 2022); it is by far the most used internet browser.
So, here I explain the process of setting a different default search engine in a web browser.
While I have taken Chrome as an example, you can follow these steps for any browser. That’s because the procedure remains the same across pretty much all popular web browsers.
Let it be Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or any other web browser; you can use the address bar (Omnibox) as a search box.
In the Chrome browser, Google comes as the default search engine handling your queries typed in the address bar. But you can easily set other search engines as your default search engine following these simple steps.
- Open Chrome on your computer.
- Click on the “More” icon (three vertical dots that you see in the upper right corner).
- Go to “Settings.”
- Then right under “Search engines,” tap on the down arrow available next to “Search engines used in the address bar.”
- Pick a new default search engine of your liking from the list. Done.
Warning: If you’ve tried setting up a search engine and found it to be ineffective, it means there may be malware on your device.
What if I want to use Google search engine anyway
If you want to use the Google search engine despite all the privacy concerns, then at least opt for a VPN service.
Ideally, it would be best if you went with a premium VPN like ExpressVPN to remain safe online. But if you do not want to spend bucks on your online security, you can try some of the best free VPNs, too.
Arguably, the most crucial feature of any quality VPN provider is to prevent your online activities from being discovered by third parties. This includes law enforcement and your Internet service providers as well.
Any VPN that cares about your privacy will not keep logs containing information about your digital footprints. However, if a VPN tracks and saves information about your online activity, it may bite you later.
When considering using a VPN, be sure to check carefully whether the provider keeps any activity logs.
And again, if you ask us, ExpressVPN is the most secure one to use per our extensive tests and experiences with different top VPNs.
Finding the best search engine tailored to your needs that respects your privacy is a subjective process. Therefore, no single recommendation for the “best secure search engine” can apply to everyone.
You can only find the one that suits you the best by researching and testing different options.
If you ask us, among all the private search engines we covered in this article, our personal favorite is DuckDuckGo.
But again, it all comes down to your unique preferences.
Also, remember that even if you use the very best anonymous search engine in the world, your online activities remain traceable.
That is because these secure alternative search engines only help hide your personal details while you surf the web. They do not protect you against location tracking or encrypt your web traffic.
Only VPNs provide you with location masking and end-to-end encryption to provide you with an entirely anonymous experience online.
Gaining full-proof internet security isn’t entirely a myth. Instead, it is a puzzle you can solve only after carefully assembling all the needed parts.
So, if you truly value your privacy, consider using a quality VPN alongside switching to one of the security-oriented search engines.
Also, keep your device’s OS updated and have an antivirus installed.
Besides, protect your screen alongside covering the camera (pasting black tape will do).
You may also consider using a secure browser and securing all of your devices (not only your mobile or laptop). That pretty much completes our recommended stealthy security and privacy puzzle.