Internet privacy rights are at the center of an important ongoing debate over users’ rights and the companies who want to define them. With data breaches exposing millions of users each year to risk, more people are turning to privacy-oriented internet options. Private search engines like Privado are growing increasingly popular as an alternative to common search engines like Google or Yahoo, which track user search queries, IP addresses, and more.
Protecting your privacy is more important than simply avoiding those pesky targeted ads. Often, your well-being is at stake, as well as your sense of security in your online activity. Choosing the right options to help protect your personal data can be tricky with all the products out there: apps, extensions, websites, all offering that perfect solution to keep you safe and anonymous. Which ones work? Which ones are merely placebos?
Non-tracking search engines are one of the most user-friendly options available. Many even come with browser extensions, so that you can use them in your favorite internet browser. This article describes the advantages and characteristics of no tracking search engines for use by normal internet users.
How to Use Non-Tracking Search Engines?
Non-tracking search engines, or private search engines, are the ones that won’t track your data. You can safely use these search engines, no matter the query, because they don’t store your data in any identifiable form. Even if a law agency were to contact these search engine companies and subpoena their data, they wouldn’t have anything to give. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have free reign to do as you wish without consequences, but for those who value their online privacy and security, this is invaluable.
No tracking search engines are incredible tools for securing your privacy.
What is a No Tracking Search Engine?
Simply put, a no tracking search engine is one that doesn’t store your personal identifying data in any way. They do not track your IP address, your session data, or any search queries you input. The companies do not keep a record of your activity in any identifiable format. They do not store tracking cookies on your computer. Nor do these search engines filter your results based on what they think you want to see. Rather, they simply display the results in terms of pure relevance, and look at each search you make as a separate, unique instance.
What Makes a Search Engine Anonymous?
To qualify as a no-tracking search engine, the engine must meet several requirements. They cannot store anything that can be used to personally identify you, such as tracking cookies, IP addresses, or session history. These terms are explained in greater detail below, and are common ways that internet companies track your online activity.
Most often, these companies use this information to target ads at the user based on the user’s web browsing history. Some companies will sell this information to third-parties, like the aforementioned advertisers. Sometimes, they will sell this data to others, or use it to pressure you with email spam and similar methods of advertisement. For inexperienced users, the urgency of the ads, which can even be disguised as warnings or helpful hints—You Have (11) Programs Slowing Your Computer Down, Speed it Up Now!—can pose a threat on their own.
Loading up an internet browser with toolbars and junk add-ons can hinder performance. Avoiding this sort of harassment through advertisement and prying is one important reason to use no tracking search engines. They do not use these methods, nor do they collect any information that can be used to target you in this way.
Common internet privacy terms:
- Cookies: Small bits of data that contain information about your visit to a particular website. These can be beneficial, but they can also be used to track your activity.
- IP Address: A unique identifier for your network device, sort of like a street address. These can be used to track your online activity and even location.
- Session History: This can mean your browsing history, including what websites you visit and the length of time you visit them.
How Does Privado Stack up as a No Tracking Search Engine?
Privado is a popular no tracking search engine, but how does it stack up against the others, as well as against public search engines like Google?
Privado encrypts user search data. Effectively, they’re creating a code that protects the confidentiality of the data. This scrambles any identifiers, which gives you the peace of mind that your search engine experience remains truly anonymous. Private search engines like Privado pride themselves on simultaneously protecting user privacy while also providing an effective search experience.
In total, Privado stacks up well as an example of a good private search engine. Look for private search engines that feature similarly robust privacy policies, effective data protection methods, and don’t store identifiable user data.
Benefits of Using No-Tracking Search Engines
The benefits of using no-tracking search engines include some of those listed under the Privado search engine above. Typically, private search engines:
- Will not store identifiable user data. This means no login IDs, no IP addresses, and do not save your search queries. Note that many no-tracking search engines do maintain a database of searches in aggregate, to help fine-tune their search algorithms and provide more accurate answers. However, these databases do not contain any personally identifiable information. This means that they won’t tie your IP address to a particular search, for instance.
- Provide unfiltered responses. This means that they are unaffected by your previous browsing habits or searches. Many public search engines tailor what the engine thinks are the most relevant answers to you, based on your browsing, cookies, and stored search queries. While this can be helpful in finding the same information again, it also reduces the accuracy of the search because it’s intentionally skewing the results based on your habits.
- Provide additional security by making sure that you are not exchanging identifiable information with the search engine itself. While this isn’t a perfect defense, it does reduce one more potential hazard of online activity.
How Can I Search Without Using Google?
Google is the most popular and well-known search engine for a reason. Everyone uses it, and its search algorithms are quite powerful. Google often finds the right information and then some, but this does come at a cost. Privacy can be a big issue with Google, from keeping track of what you have searched to third-party affiliates seeking to capitalize on your activity with marketing.
Other search engines do what Google does, if sometimes less effectively. However, private search engines are powerful, some even rivaling Google in their effectiveness. They have the same search fields, and turn up the same websites, sorted by relevance, popularity, and analytics scores. The major difference is that these search engines are designed to retain privacy as a number one priority. This means no targeted ads, no tracking cookies, and no user data collection.
Private search engines do still feature ads, but these are sponsored ads that may be relevant to your search keywords. If you search where to find the latest hot video games, for instance, the ads you will see will be promoting a trending video game. This is not the same thing as targeting you specifically, nor using your information to do so.
Private search engines like Privado, StartPage, and DuckDuckGo all offer powerful—and private—alternatives to using Google. These feature sleek interfaces and similar results, and for most users would make for an equally-effective but much more private search engine experience.
Do Search Engines Have a No-Track Filter?
Search engines track user activity and use it to filter results. This is called a “filter bubble.” While it can be helpful, it can also skew your results and is alarming to those who don’t want their privacy invaded. No-tracking search engines, by contrast, do not store data, don’t tie searches to previous queries, and avoid the filter bubble entirely.
How Do I Hide My Information from Google?
Google offers some removal tools to help users remove personal information from their searches. This may not suffice for those who want to search freely, but without having to completely sacrifice their favorite internet browsers or the like.
The best way to protect your information while still enjoying the benefits of search engines is to install the Privado browser extension. This will add Privado’s completely no-tracking search engine field right to your browser, so that you can search without having to load up a completely separate browser instance. This keeps your information from being tracked without greatly disrupting your normal online activity.
How Can I Browse the Internet Without Being Tracked?
There are several tools for foiling tracking attempts while you are browsing the internet. From web proxies to VPNs, private web browsers, and no-tracking search engines, you can always do something to protect your privacy. Here are a few of the best options:
- Web Proxies: A web proxy essentially acts as a go-between for you and the internet you’re searching for. You send your request, the proxy takes that and goes to the larger internet, and then returns with any results it finds, protecting your privacy.
- VPN: A virtual private network is like an enhanced web proxy. It routes your internet connection through the VPN’s private server, instead of your normal internet service provider, so from the internet’s perspective, your activity comes from the VPN instead of your actual computer.
- Private Browsers: Private browsing, such as using Google’s incognito mode, will only protect your privacy locally. They delete the private browsing session data upon closing the browser. When used in conjunction with these other options, they become more effective.
- Non-Tracking Search Engines: Search the internet without being tracked or having your data collected.
How Does a Web Proxy Hide Your IP?
A web proxy server protects your privacy by using itself to search the requested website. The proxy makes the request on your behalf, so information such as your IP address never travels further than the web proxy. Think of it like a mail carrier. You write a letter asking a question, and give it to the carrier, who takes it to its destination. The carrier then brings the return letter so that you can view it.
Web proxies do all this and more. Some go even further, such as encryption and even changing your IP address. To expand the analogy, imagine the mail carrier changed the return address you put on your letter so that others couldn’t identify it. Whomever receives your letter will not know your exact address, only the mail carrier does. So it is with proxies protecting your IP address. They interact with the internet on your behalf, obscuring your IP address and encrypting the data involved so that it’s unreadable in transit.
How Do VPN Tunnels Protect Information?
A virtual private network takes your connection and runs it through its own network. For all intents and purposes to outsiders, it seems as if your activity originates at the VPN, rather than where it really does. When the VPN creates a connection this way, it’s called a “tunnel,” as it encrypts the data sent by your device. Essentially, it’s “building a tunnel” for your internet activity pass through, shielded from the prying eyes of outside agents.
Many VPNs also encrypt your information so that even if someone did access the data tunnel, they wouldn’t be able to understand the data. VPNs are one of the best tools for protecting your privacy online, and come in many price points and feature packages.
Use Privacy-Focused Web Browsers
Not all web browsers are created equally. Some offer better privacy options than others. Firefox and Tor browsers offer a lot of privacy, for instance, while Google Chrome is more focused on a faster overall user experience. Note that using private browsing modes, such as incognito, won’t actually protect your privacy online. At best, these modes erase your session data once you close the window, and do not store tracking cookies. This protects your data locally, but doesn’t at all hide your network activity from anyone overseeing your network—or from your ISP or the websites on the other side.
Browsers like Firefox make for a customizable experience and can give you lots of options to enhance your privacy. Tor routes your traffic through its own network, which can slow downloads a bit, but protects you by obscuring the route of your internet traffic.
Using privacy-focused browsers in private mode, and in conjunction with these other tools, will do a much better job of protecting your privacy than any one option.
Avoid Public WiFi and Internet Connections
Public internet connections, especially WiFi, are an absolute no-go! These are not secure and your activity can be seen by anyone with access to the network traffic. More frightening still, some people can use tools like “packet sniffers” to track your information, even the logins that you use. So if you logged in to your bank account on an unsecured network like this, unscrupulous hackers could see the information that you used to login and potentially use that to steal from you.
Even if you use private browsing, anyone overseeing the WiFi network can still see what you are doing, where, and for how long. If you have to use a public network, then make sure that you don’t access any sensitive information. This means do not log into anything that requires a password, or even so much as message someone any identifiable information.
How Can I Hide My Search History?
In order to hide your search history, you can delete your browsing history and all the related data. This means clearing cookies and offline website data, as well as webpage history. Using a private browser will do this by default, without storing the data in the first place, which makes it helpful. This isn’t much of a protection against anyone that isn’t using the same local device, however, so you do not want to depend on it as your sole method of protection.
What Makes No-Tracking Search Engines the Best Solution for Private Browsing?
The multifaceted approach to internet privacy is the best. Each tool and option has its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, private browsing in conjunction with private search engines means that the search engine websites won’t store your data, and neither will your computer save the data from the browsing session. This enhances your privacy in ways that neither accomplishes alone.
Non-tracking search engines should be your default search engine if you are privacy-minded. Any other option still leaves data trails; if you use a regular Google search even while private browsing, your information is still seen and collected by Google, even if it’s not stored on your computer after the browsing ends. If you use a non-tracking search engine like Privado, you can be assured of your privacy because that information is never collected by the search engine itself.