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Guide

What is a Privacy Search Engine?

Key Points:

  • Most people automatically use a popular search engine like Google.  
  • Traditional search engines track your search history and sell your personal data to advertising companies to make a profit. 
  • Ghostery Private Search is a private search engine that does not log your search history.
  • Private search engines will improve your digital privacy and protect your personal data.
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What is a Privacy Search Engine?
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Privacy Search Engines

Google is the world’s most popular search engine. In fact, Google has 4.3 billion users worldwide meaning the platform receives roughly 92.2% of all search traffic online.

‍While Google can deliver very good results, its main goal is to collect users’ data which it then sells to advertising companies to make a profit. Google’s search engine and browser (Chrome) track all of your searches and other online activities including:

  • Geographic location 
  • Online purchases 
  • Search terms 
  • IP address

Privacy statistics reveal that 79% of Americans are concerned about the protection of their personal information and 53% are more worried about digital privacy now compared to last year. 

‍In Europe, 41% of internet users do not want private companies accessing their personal information and 30% worry about businesses collecting personal data without their knowledge. 

Top Privacy Search Engines

While the best private search engine differs for each person, here is a list to help guide you.

Ghostery Private Search is a private search engine by Ghostery that does not track or log your browsing history. It delivers objective, unbiased search results that are not influenced by your previous clicks or preferences.

The key features of our search engine include:

  • No tracking or logging of search history or personal data
  • Unfiltered, transparent results
  • Avoidance of filter bubbles and censorship

Brave Search protects your privacy by not tracking you, your searches, or your clicks. Unlike other search engines on this list, Brave serves results from its own independent index of the Web.

While some alternative options offer privacy protections, most still rely on Big Tech for results. So if Google or Bing went down, those other options would too. Brave Search remains functional.

Kagi

Kagi is an ad-free search engine with a subscription model that starts at $5 per month. It respects user privacy by not tracking searches or selling data.

Kagi provides high-quality, non-commercial results, with personalization features available. This unique search engine also includes access to AI models as part of your subscription, such as ChatGPT and Claude.

Gibiru

Gibiru is a private search engine that takes a unique approach to searching Google anonymously. Rather than connecting directly to Google, Gibiru routes your search through an encrypted proxy. This hides your identity while allowing you to view Google results.

The proxy removes trackers before displaying the scrubbed search pages. In this way, Gibiru enables anonymous Google searching without sharing personal information.

Startpage

Startpage leverages Google's search index to provide results similar to what you would find on Google. Unlike many private search engines, Startpage uniquely relies on Google rather than building its own index or using Bing's results. However, Startpage does not engage in the same level of data collection as Google. Startpage adheres to strict European privacy standards.

Startpage does display ads, but these are generated solely based on the search query entered rather than collected user data or profiles.

Swisscows

Swisscows is a search engine based in Switzerland. Its location puts it under the jurisdiction of strict European Union privacy laws, similar to the Dutch search engine Startpage. To generate search results, Swisscows utilizes its own web crawler technology.

Ecosia

Ecosia utilizes Bing's infrastructure but diverts advertising profits to tree planting. The majority of ad money, around 80 percent, funds reforestation programs and the planting of new trees. This unique business model has garnered significant support.

However, it should be pointed out that Ecosia's search functionality depends entirely on Bing. As such, users' data is still being handled by Microsoft, which some may see as a privacy concern.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo positions itself as a privacy-focused search engine. It aims to avoid profiling users or tracking their searches and clicks. This means DuckDuckGo shows all users the same search results, unlike some other search engines that personalize results based on profiles.

However, like Ecosia, DuckDuckGo relies on partnerships with Microsoft Bing and Yahoo! to generate its underlying search results. So limitations in Bing's search index could produce unsatisfactory results on DuckDuckGo as well.

Private Search Engines

Private search engines, or no-tracking search engines, are search engines that don't track your activities online. They offer a more data secure alternative to traditional search engines and private browsing mode. 

A no-tracking search engine will not store your personal data or track your browsing behavior on the internet. They don’t collect your search information and will maintain your privacy when browsing the web.

Most private search engines work in the exact same way as other search engines, except they don't collect or store your personal information.

Benefits of using a private search engine

Protect your personal data

Traditional search engines try to collect as much data about you as possible while you’re using the internet, whereas a privacy search engine will not collect any of your personal information. 

Using a private search engine will improve your digital privacy and keep your data private.

Keep your browsing history hidden 

When you use a privacy search engine, people won’t be able to see your browsing history or access your personal data. Search engine privacy is especially important if you share a device like a computer or a laptop with other people.

Get unbiased search results

Many search engines track your browsing behavior and then use this data to manipulate your search results based on your past searches. For instance, one study found that airlines may increase prices if you keep searching for the same flight on a non-private web browser. 

‍Best private search engines that don't track provide unbiased search results that are not based on your browsing history and other online activity influences.

Remove targeted ads

Regular search engines track your online activity and sell your personal data to advertisers. Companies use this data to show you targeted ads which can be intrusive and annoying. In a recent survey, 51% of users said targeted advertising is an inappropriate use of personal data.

‍A privacy search engine won’t show you personalized ads or any marketing content based on your search or browsing history.

What is the best private search engine?

There is a wide variety of private search engines available, but they don’t all offer the same level of protection or user experience. 

‍According to experts at Comparitech, the best search engine for privacy:

  • Has a user-friendly interface
  • Delivers relevant search results
  • Provides customizable settings options 
  • Doesn’t track or collect any personal data

Ghostery Private Search is a private search engine that does not log your search history. This means you get served unbiased search engine results, not results that are filtered by the likelihood you’ll click on them. Ghostery Private Search also provides insights about trackers on web pages to be visited to improve transparency. 

‍You can have complete peace of mind knowing that Ghostery does not alter your search results or sell your personal data to third-party companies. 

Our alternative search engine is built into Ghostery Private Browser, part of the complete Ghostery Privacy Suite. It is also available as a browser extension in both Firefox and Chrome.

Our search engine is free to use for everyone. When becoming a Ghostery Contributor it is also free of tracking-free affiliate links.

In summary, Ghostery Private Search:

  • Does not log your search history
  • Displays unbiased search results 
  • Provides insights about trackers on web pages
  • Conceals the display of private ads if you choose a paid subscription

Tracker Preview Wheel

Our new Trackers Preview wheel is displayed on search engine results pages and helps you identify tracker heavily-loaded websites before you visit them. This creates even more transparency and gives you more control over your digital privacy when browsing the internet.  

‍Check out our recent blog post if you want to find out more about our new Trackers Preview feature

See what media outlets are saying about Ghostery…

Ghostery brings strong design and protection together into a smart package that does a good job blocking ads and provides enormous insight into what is tracking you and how. We were also impressed that it earned a perfect score from adblocker-tester and did a good job blocking trackers.

— PCMag

Ghostery is a small extension, designed to make you invisible to advertisers as you search the web, without slowing down your browser. It comes with a suite of privacy tools designed to anonymise your presence online and dig deeper into useful analytics.

— The Independent

Ghostery makes browsing the web safer and simpler. It both prevents overbearing or annoying ads from covering your screen and also offers a way of transparency and protection against the parts of the internet that are looking back at you

— Jared Holt, researcher & reporter

‍Private browsing mode

Many popular search engines come with a built-in privacy mode that enables private browsing. Turning on private browsing in your ordinary browser (Incognito mode in Chrome) means your device won’t store your browsing data.

Is private browsing mode safe? 

Private browsing mode offers some protection, but your browsing is not completely private and the websites you visit will still track you online. If you are concerned about search engine privacy, we recommend using a private search engine.

Search engines play a key role in online tracking. Companies track your search queries and browsing history to learn about your online behaviors and influence your search results.

The dangers of using a non-private search engine

Traditional search engines track all of your activity on the internet to build a profile based on your search history, buying preferences, location, and more. They then make a lot of money selling your personal information to advertisers and third-party companies.

Many people feel uncomfortable knowing that companies are secretly stealing their personal information and selling it online. There are two simple solutions to improve search engine privacy: Turn on private browsing mode or use a privacy search engine (also known as a no-tracking search engine).

How ads use your search data

Ads track users online primarily through cookies that capture browsing and search history data. This data gets compiled into behavioral profiles to target users with relevant ads.

Sites can also use tracking tools like Google Analytics to monitor user activity for ad targeting or other purposes.

Will I still see ads in a private search engine? 

There is a common misconception that you won’t see any ads when using a private search engine. You should be aware that private search engines still serve ads, but they are much less intrusive as they are only displayed in the context of relevant search results.   

‍To pay their bills and fulfill their mission, private search engines need to earn money, one way being by displaying a few private sponsored links. 

‍The difference is that these are displayed in a natural context and not personalized. Any ads you see on a private search engine will be based solely on your current search query, not on your demographic data or past browsing behavior.

‍You can read Ghostery’s Manifesto if you want more information on this. 

Extra steps to enhance your search engine privacy

Using a search engine like Ghostery Private Search is one of the best ways to protect your digital identity, but there are extra steps you can take to enhance your search privacy.

  1. Use a VPN: A VPN will give you greater anonymity when using the internet as they conceal personal information like your geographic location and your IP address when you are browsing the web. 
  2. Clearing private data: We recommend clearing private data (cookies, site data and history) when closing the browser if you share your computer or device with other people and want to keep your browsing activities private
  3. Choose strong passwords: Privacy tools and extensions are useless if someone is able to hack your password and access your personal data. With that in mind, make sure you choose a strong password and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. You can use a password manager to make it easier to manage your online passwords. 

Summary 

Popular search engines like Google deliver accurate and reliable results. However, you should be aware that search engines make a profit by selling your personal data to advertisers and other third-party companies. 

‍If you are concerned about search engine privacy, we recommend using a private search engine that will not store your personal data or track your browsing behaviors on the internet.

‍Download the Ghostery Privacy Suite if you want to prevent tracking, block annoying ads, and maintain the highest privacy protection when using the internet.