Private Search Engines

3 min
Tags: Search PrivateSearch Swisscows NoTracking

This guide aims to be the most in-depth resource available on  private search engines. For this 2021 update, we’ve examined the best  private search engines, discussed how to keep your data safe when  searching, and flagged some search engines we think you should avoid.

In today’s world, search engines are a necessity to find what you’re  looking for. But the help search engines provide often comes at a price:  your privacy.

It is sad to say, but most of the big search engines today serve as data collection tools for advertising companies.  They collect your private data and use it to make money with targeted  ads. This is a booming industry where your data ends up in the hands of  third parties and you are the product.

Here is the information being collected by some of the larger (not private) search engines:

  1. Source IP address
  2. User agent
  3. Location
  4. Unique identifier (stored in browser cookies)
  5. Search queries

As you may know, the items you enter into a search engine can disclose highly personal information about you. Things like as medical conditions, employment  status, financial information, political beliefs, and other private  details. This data can be collected, stored, and linked to detailed  digital profiles which can even contain your real identity. The only way  to ensure that your data is safe is to keep it out of the hands of the  data collectors. To do that, you need to use a private search engine.

In this latest iteration of our guide to the best private search  engines, we do another deep dive into the world of private search  engines, while also covering some FAQs and best practices for keeping  your data safe and private. Here’s an overview of what we’ll cover:

  1. Best private search engines for 2021
  2. “Private” search engines with ad-tech owners
  3. How do private search engines make money?
  4. Are US-based search engines safe?
  5. How to keep your searches private
  6. Considerations when choosing a private search engine

All recommendations in this guide are my own opinions based on extensive testing and research.

The best private search engines

Finding the best private search engine for your needs is a subjective  process. Your circumstances and goals are unique, meaning there’s no  one-size-fits-all. Things to consider include:

  • Where is the service based?
  • Where does it get its search results?
  • Can you run your own instance?
  • Are there mobile apps?

In a perfect world, a search engine would give you great results  while also respecting your privacy. Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect  world. Any of the private search engines in this guide could be the best solution for you. But you will need to test drive the ones  that look the best to you to see which is really the best fit. Before we  start, there is one issue you need to be aware of:

Metasearch vs search: Most private search engines are technically metasearch engines.  While a search engine crawls the internet and gathers its own results, a  metasearch engine pulls its search results from search engines, such as  Google, Bing, and Yandex.

In this review, the one exception is Mojeek, which is a true  crawler-based search engine with its own index (discussed below). There  are also a few search engines that fall in the middle by deploying their  own crawler, but also pulling results from other search engines.

Note: This list is not necessarily in rank  order. Choose the best search engine for you based on your own threat  model and unique needs.

Here are the best private search engines:

1. Swisscows – A Switzerland-based private search engine with zero tracking

swisscows search with privacy

Swisscows is a Switzerland-based private search engine that does very well with  privacy and security. They promise no tracking or data collection, and  even have a “Swiss Fort Knox” data center for their server infrastructure. From their website:

  1. have our own servers and do not work with cloud or third party!
  2. have our Datacenter in the Swiss Alps – THIS is the safest bunker in Europe!
  3. have positioned everything geographically outside of EU and US.

In terms of privacy, Swisscows is one of the top choices. You can catch up on their privacy policy here. In testing out Swisscows for this guide, I found it to provide good results, which are primarily sourced from Bing.

Family-Friendly content – One unique aspect of Swisscows is that they are passionate about family-friendly content. As they explain on their about page:

  1. We promote moral values.
  2. We hate violence and pornography.
  3. We promote digital media education.

While some people may not like the fact that Swisscows filters some  adult content, others may see this as a great feature, especially those  with children.

Because Swisscows does not pass on user data from search requests,  they are unable to effectively monetize their service through ad  partners, which means they largely rely on donations and sponsorships to maintain operations (sponsors can get a banner ad at the top of results):

Jurisdiction: Switzerland

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