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Search Engines

Use a search engine that doesn't build an advertising profile based on your searches.

The recommendations here are based on the merits of each service's privacy policy. There is no guarantee that these privacy policies are honored.

Consider using a VPN or Tor if your threat model requires hiding your IP address from the search provider.

DuckDuckGo

Recommendation

DuckDuckGo logo DuckDuckGo logo

DuckDuckGo is one of the more mainstream private search engine options. Notable DuckDuckGo search features include bangs and many instant answers. The search engine relies on a commercial Bing API to serve most results, but it does use numerous other sources for instant answers and other non-primary results.

While DuckDuckGo’s primary service is its search engine, the company has recently been branching out by offering various other services and products. This includes their web browsers, email relay service, etc.

DuckDuckGo is the default search engine for the Tor Browser and is one of the few available options on Apple’s Safari browser.

Website tor Privacy Policy

DuckDuckGo is based in the 🇺🇸 United States. Their privacy policy states they do log your searches for product improvement purposes, but not your IP address or any other personally identifying information.

DuckDuckGo offers two other versions of their search engine, both of which do not require JavaScript. These versions do lack features, however. These versions can also be used in conjunction with their Tor onion address by appending /lite or /html for the respective version.

Startpage

Recommendation

Startpage logo Startpage logo

Startpage is a private search engine known for serving Google search results. Startpage's flagship feature is Anonymous View, which puts forth efforts to standardize user activity to make it more difficult to be uniquely identified. Unlike the name suggests, the feature should not be relied upon for anonymity. If you are looking for anonymity, use the Tor Browser instead. The feature can be useful for hiding some network and browser properties—see the technical document for more details.

Startpage has been known to refuse access to those using a VPN service or Tor, so your mileage may vary.

Website Privacy Policy

Startpage is based in the 🇳🇱 Netherlands. According to their privacy policy, they log details such as: operating system, type of browser, and language. They do not log your IP address, search queries, or other personally identifying information.

Startpage's majority shareholder is System1 who is an adtech company. We don't believe that to be an issue as they have an distinctly separate privacy policy. The Privacy Guides team reached out to Startpage back in 2020 to clear up any concerns with System1's sizeable investment into the service. We were satisfied with the answers we received.

Recommendation

Brave Search logo

Brave Search is developed by Brave and serves results primarily from its own, independent index. The index is optimized against Google Search and therefore may provide more contextually accurate results compared to other alternatives.

Brave Search includes unique features such as Discussions, which highlights conversation-focused results—such as forum posts.

We recommend you disable Anonymous usage metrics—it is enabled by default and can be disabled within settings.

Brave Search is based in the 🇺🇸. Their privacy policy states they collect aggregated usage metrics, which includes the operating system and browser in use, however no personally identifiable information is collected. IP addresses are temporarily processed, but are not retained.

SearXNG

Recommendation

SearXNG logo

SearXNG is an open-source, self-hostable, metasearch engine, aggregating the results of other search engines while not storing any information itself. It is an actively maintained fork of SearX. There is a list of public instances.

Homepage

Downloads

SearXNG is a proxy between you and the search engines it aggregates from. Your search queries will still be sent to the search engines that SearXNG gets its results from.

When self-hosting, it is important that you have other people using your instance so that the queries would blend in. You should be careful with where and how you are hosting SearXNG, as people looking up illegal content on your instance could draw unwanted attention from authorities.

When you are using a SearXNG instance, be sure to go read their privacy policy. Since SearXNG instances may be modified by their owners, they do not necessarily reflect their privacy policy. Some instances run as a Tor hidden service, which may grant some privacy as long as your search queries does not contain PII.


Last update: May 22, 2022