Privacy-centric search engines
Following are 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 those listed here are partially or wholly meta search engines, meaning that they do not index the web themselves and instead rely either partially or entirely upon third parties such as Google for their search results. Although these meta search engines are often referred to as “alternative search engines”, they are not true alternatives, however they do provide a valuable service in that they act as a proxy between you and third party services such as Google and thus they insulate you from the privacy risks associated with those third parties.
If you have any search engines you would like to suggest, please leave a comment (you need not be logged in).
- Decentralized: whether the service is controlled by a single entity, such as Google, or distributed among its users, such as YaCy for example
- Type: meta: 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
- Client Required: whether you have to download and install client software in order to use the service
|FAROO (search page, no SSL)||not decentralized||index||JS: yes / Cookies: no||optional client required||?||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.“. This is extremely poor logic in my opinion.|
|Searx (search page, SSL)||partially decentralized||meta||JS: yes(?) if searching from the FF search bar, no if searching from the web page / Cookies: no, but settings are not saved||no client required||n/a||Searx 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).|
|YaCy (search page, SSL, self-signed certificate)||decentralized||index||JS: yes / Cookies: no||optional client required||n/a||YaCy 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.|
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.
- 5 Best Search Engines That Respect Your Privacy – BestVPN.com
- 12 Private Search Engines that Do Not Track You – Hongkiat
- Alternative Search Engines | Oregon Computer Solutions
- Distributed Search Engines – P2P Foundation
- P2P Search as an Alternative to Google: Recapturing network value through decentralized search » The Journal of Peer Production
 Startpage uses 1×1 pixel transparent GIF images in the page that serves search results. I had assumed these were tracking pixels and originally stated so in the notes above, however a representative from Startpage contacted me and explained that i was incorrect. Following is a Q&A from a couple of emails i exchanged with them:
Startpage: BTW StartPage/Ixquick do *not* use tracking images. What you noted are non-tracking clear GIFs. Here’s a KB article about that.
Me: regarding the 1×1 gif images, i don’t understand how an image can be used to prevent a 3rd party from setting a cookie – can you explain?
Me: why several 1×1 images are used – why not just 1?
Startpage: It is simpler to offer a different image for each different aggregate count we are keeping.
Me: why do the file names appear to contain a UIN that changes with every search apparently?
Startpage: There is no identifier. Rather, there is something called an “anticache” parameter that has a random number. This prevents the image from being “cached” by the browser – as browser caching would prevent the loading – hence would prevent the aggregate counts from being correct.
Me: why are these clear gif’s are not loaded when 0 results are returned?
Startpage: A different part of the code is used when there are no results, so it might not include the same aggregate counts.