5 best private search engines and why you need to use them

Radu Tyrsina
by Radu Tyrsina
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  • The majority of web browsers and search engines track your online activity for marketing purposes.
  • If you're looking for a search engine to protect your data while online, this guide will help you choose the best one for your needs.
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Normal browsers like Google and Bing are designed to track users’ activities and profile their online behavior. The primary reason for this is to create attractive advertisements.

However, there there is always the concern of personal information being compromised due to security breaches, state surveillance, and unauthorized data sharing.

Fortunately, private search engines can help keep your private information safe.

Simply put, Private Search Engines, also known as PSEs, use proxy and encrypted search requests to hide your personal information from anyone looking to misuse your information.

Below you will find more information about what a PSE is, how it works, and where to find the best private search engines on the Internet.

Regular search engines vs. private search engines

Everyone knows how a normal search engine like Google.com and Bing.com operates. Users simply type in what they are looking for and related links and websites will appear.

However, what most people don’t know is that many of these popular search engines keep a profile of each user.

This profile is typically used for advertising purposes, as it can tailor ads for you. Yet, private sensitive information can also be exposed, which can be harmful to the user.

Therefore, private search engines are becoming more and more popular as they help keep a user’s browsing information private. PSEs do not allow cookies to track your browsing history, which means that you won’t have a profile.

While there may still be advertisements on PSE, they will not take part in any sort of behavioral tracking. There won’t be filters based on your previous online behavior.

There are two types of private search engines: independent and metasearch. Independent search engines use their own index and crawler.

In other words, they do not utilize the help of search engine titans such as Bing, Yahoo, and Google.

On the other hand, metasearch private engines use proxies and sometimes encrypted, servers to access popular search engines like Google.

Obviously, metasearch engines will be more powerful as they have access to the large indexes of normal search engines.

Why do I need a PSE?

Now that you know what PSE is and how it works, you may ask why should I get one? Individuals typically use PSE primarily for privacy reasons.

But, with a PSE you will also not be targeted with advertisements that are based on your previous online activity. Furthermore, you won’t have to worry about your information being sold to third-party trackers.

So, simply put, if you value your privacy and you are tired of advertisements using your private information then you will want to use a private search engine.

If you are interested in using a PSE but don’t know where to start, then the below list of top PSE on the internet will help point you in the right direction.

How can I get a browser with a built-in private search engine?

Few browsers offer such options as privacy and safe browsing. Usually, you’d have to take care of these settings by installing third-party extensions.

But Opera browser comes with several features that help protect your identity while surfing online.

All you need to do is to install the browser for free and tweak a few options in the Privacy & Security section of the browser’s settings, depending on your preferences.

opera browser with privacy options

To mention just a few pros in terms of privacy with Opera:

  • Built-in ad-blocker to keep annoying ads at bay;
  • Tracker blocker to stop tracking attempts (note that the effect depends on whether a website responds to the request, and how the request is interpreted);
  • Free VPN with no traffic limit;
  • Settings control to allow you to choose how Internet sites can access your data;
  • Crypto Mining protection to block crypto mining scripts in case your PC gets hijacked.
Opera

Opera

Opera is the best option for a fully secure browser with several free tools to protect your online presence and keep your identity private.

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Best private search engines to keep your info private

DuckDuckGo

private search engines ducktogo

With all the cyber-attacks and increased concerns over government surveillance of the Internet, DuckDuckGo has already surpassed 10 billion searches.

This is what makes DuckDuckGo probably the most popular of all PSE.

Part of its popularity is attributed to the high-security DuckDuckGo promises to users. Searches will produce instant results without any tailored advertisements.

Users also have the ability to save settings such as language, region, safe search in the cloud. This means users will be able to access their personal settings on multiple devices.

Furthermore, with the filter feature, you can filter searches into categories and regions, to have easy access to the news in a different country or region, for instance.

DuckDuckGo users also have the ability to turn off annoying advertisements in their settings.

Users concerned with interface aesthetics will be pleased to know that DuckDuckGo offers customization options. Currently, there are six themes to choose from: Retro, Terminal, Contrast, Default, Basic, and Dark.

The colors of backgrounds, search results, typeface, etc, can also all be changed and customized to your liking.

Use DuckDuckGo

Lukol

Lukol private search engine

The great thing about Lukol is that it will not only keep your information safe by using proxy servers, but it is built to help prevent users from being tricked by internet fraudsters.

In other words, it has a safeguarding feature that keeps users from entering websites that could potentially flood your computer with spyware and viruses.

Use Lukol

Oscobo

oscobo private search engine

Oscobo allows users to search for specific types of content such as videos, images, news, and more. Furthermore, it does not allow any party to store or track your browsing data.

Users of Oscobo also have the option of adding a Chrome extension which will make using the PSE more convenient.

Use Oscobo

WolframAlpha

WolframAlpha is a special type of search engine, designed specifically for providing knowledge to its users. It is unique because it uses its own massive supply of expert-level information.

Furthermore, WolframAlpha uses algorithms to quickly and automatically answer questions you input in the search query.

While WolframAlpha can be used to surf the Internet for entertainment and work-related information, it is primarily built for teachers and students. This is even more evident in the pro version of the search engine.

Users will need to pay a monthly fee in order to go pro and use the collection of features that can significantly aid students in their struggle for academic success.

Pro users have the ability to upload data for analysis, get interactive visuals that can be used for presentations, access optimized web apps and more.

Use WolframAlpha

StartPage

startpage private search engine

StartPage is perfect for users who are looking for something simple, minimalist, and aesthetically pleasing.

It offers only a few settings, filters, and just a bunch of options, which is attractive to some people who are just looking for something easy to navigate.

It may not be as powerful as other private search engines, but it certainly easy to use.

Use StartPage

So, with the help of private search engines, individuals can rest assured that their browsing activities are safe from prying eyes.

If your favorite PSE is not on this list, feel free to let us know in the comment section below and we’ll surely take a look.

FAQ: Learn more about private search engines

  • Does Chrome have private browsing?

Google Chrome supports a private browsing mode called Incognito Mode, but the browser can still collect information on the websites you visit.

  • Are there any search engines that don’t track data?

There are plenty of search engines that don’t track users and don’t store information. They are best known as private search engines.

  • Is Incognito mode effective?

While there is no browsing history stored in Incognito Mode, the websites you visit can still track you and profile you. For more efficiency regarding privacy, use extensions or VPNs.

  • Does Incognito Mode hide your IP address?

While Incognito Mode hides your browsing history, it does not hide your IP address. But there are some ways to trick the web about your location.

  • How do I hide my search history?

You can use a privacy-focused search engine or enable privacy mode or incognito mode in your browser settings.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2019 and was updated and revamped in August 2020 for freshness,  accuracy, and comprehensiveness.