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Alternative Search Engines That Respect Your Privacy

Privacy-centric search engines

Following is a table of some search engines which are more privacy-centric than those offered by the privacy-hating mega-corporations like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Note that several of the alternatives listed here are meta search engines which rely either partially or entirely upon services like Google for their search results. While these so-called “alternative search engines” are not true alternatives, they do act as a proxy between you and services like Google and thus insulate you from the privacy risks associated with them.

If you have any search engines you would like to suggest, please leave a comment (you need not be logged in).

Legend:

  • Decentralized – whether the service is controlled by a single entity, such as Google, or distributed among its users, as is the case with YaCy for example
  • Typemeta: uses 3rd party search indexes, such as Google, to deliver search results
    index: crawls the web and indexes content without relying on 3rd party search engines
    hybrid: a combination of both meta and index
  • Requires JS / Cookies – whether the web interface requires JavaScript and/or cookies (web storage)
  • Client Required – whether you have to download and install client software in order to use the service
NameDecentralizedTypeRequires JS / CookiesClient RequiredPrivacy PolicyComments
Disconnect (search page SSL)nometano, but functionality is limited / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyDisconnect apparently pulls results from Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo, though in my case it forwards all searches to DuckDuckGo regardless of what the preferred search engine is set to. Personally i see no advantage to using Disconnect over other meta search engines.
DuckDuckGo (search page, SSL)nohybridyes(?) if searching from the FF search bar, no if searching from the web page / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyDuckDuckGo claims to pull its search results from over 400 sources including Wikipedia, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex, as well as its own crawler, and its interface is similar to Google. The company generates revenue from ads which can be disabled in the settings. DuckDuckGo also offers a ‘lite’ version which does not use JS or cookies.
FAROO (search page, no SSL)noindexyes / nooptional?FAROO offers a distributed, censorship resistant, peer-to-peer search engine and index, however it is powered by proprietary client software. In answering the question “Why you don’t publish your product as Open Source?“, their response is “[…] it’s not a good idea to hand over your technological advantage to a monopoly, when competing with its free service with enormous brand power.“. A very poor answer in my personal opinion.
findx (search page, SSL)noindexno / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyfindx has a decent privacy policy. The interface is plain and functional, though they don’t provide a lot of options to customize it. findx displays ads in their results and, though they are clearly marked, there is no option to disable them.
Gigablast (search page, SSL)partiallyindexyes / nono?Gigablast is an interesting open source search engine that maintains its own index. You can install and run it on your own server. The search interface offers some useful options, such as selecting the format of the output, sorting options, date options and file type options. I couldn’t find a privacy policy, but decided to include it anyway since it is open source.
Hulbee (search page, SSL)nometa?yes / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyHulbee has a solid privacy policy and an interesting interface, however it appears they pull their results from Bing, though i don’t know if they use Bing exclusively.
MetaGer (search page, SSL)nohybrid?no, but some functionality loss / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyMetaGer, which has been around for a couple decades, has an excellent privacy policy and claims to pull results from up to 50 other search engines.
Mojeek (search page, SSL)noindexno / nonoprivacy policyMojeek is a UK based company with a good privacy policy. Their search engine promises to return unbiased results. The search interface is very plain and the options very limited.
Peekier (search page, SSL)nometayes / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyPeekier provides an interesting, though feature limited interface in the form of zoomable text and thumbnail images of the web pages corresponding to your search results, thus allowing you browse the results before visiting the source page. Peekier appears to pull its results from Bing only however, which is unfortunate.
Qwant (search page, SSL)nohybridyes / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyQwant, based in France, is an interesting search engine. It is a hybrid in that they use crawlers, but also pull some results from Bing. The interface is pleasant, colorful and easy to use, though there are not many configuration options. Their privacy policy looks solid.
Searx (search page, SSL)partiallymetayes(?) if searching from the FF search bar, no if searching from the web page / no, but settings are not savednon/aSearx is a meta search engine which i have found to be the best of its type because of its capability to pull results from a wide array of third party services and it is highly configurable. The interface is clean, customizable and intuitive. Anyone can run a Searx instance on their own server (see their GitHub page).
Startpage/Ixquick (search page, SSL)nometano, but some functionality loss / no, but settings are not savednoprivacy policyStartpage/Ixquick apparently pulls its search results from the top 10 results of other major indexes, such as Google. They have a strong privacy policy and an extensive Q&A page regarding privacy, however they do use tracking images, so if you are using uBlock Origin, go here for the filters necessary to block them.
Swisscows (search page, SSL)noindex?yes / nonoprivacy policyThe Swisscows servers are located in Switzerland and the company has a good privacy policy. The search interface is modern and interesting in that they use machine learning to evaluate your search terms in order to provide better results. Swisscows is described as “… the first intelligent answer engine because it is based on semantic information recognition and offers users intuitive help in their search for answers.”
YaCy (search page, SSL, self-signed certificate)yesindexyes / nooptionaln/aYaCy is, in my opinion, the most interesting search engine listed here in that it is a decentralized, distributed, censorship resistant search engine and index powered by free, open-source software. At this time YaCy doesn’t produce a lot of pertinent search results, however the more people use it, the better it will become. For those wanting to run your own instance of YaCy, see their home page and their GitHub page. This article from Digital Ocean may also be of help if you want to run YaCy on a VPS.
NameDecentralizedTypeRequires JS / CookiesClient RequiredPrivacy PolicyComments

Upcoming search engines

  • Presearch: a decentralized search engine powered by the community
  • Seeks: a websearch proxy and collaborative distributed tool for websearch

Please leave a comment if you know of any others.

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