Top 7 Best Safe Search Engines

Best search engine

Are you looking for a private and secure search alternative to Google?

We’ve rounded up seven of the best safe search engines to allow you to conduct your online searches without tracking, ensure your search histories are not available to anyone, and let you search privately and securely online.

If you are reading this, then you have probably learned enough about online privacy and security to know that every letter that you ever typed into Google’s search engine got recorded and studied by the tech giant’s teams.

Indeed, most popular search engines log user data since this data has enormous value to these big tech companies.

Like many mainstream search engines, Google likes collecting as much data as it possibly can and analysing it for clues regarding your interests.

That way, it can offer you better ads, and there is a higher chance that you might buy something. Everyone is a winner. Apart from you and your online privacy.

But increasingly, people tend to value their privacy, which is why most of us choose to shift to private search engines upon realising just how appreciative of information Google and the other major search engines are harvesting.

Remarkably some people ask us “are private search engines legal?” Absolutely they are, and indeed preferable to the mainstream search engines most people use.

So, if you’re looking for a secure and private search engine alternative to Google, then in this article, I’ll be exploring seven of the best private search engines on the market.

Leading secure Search Engines

There are now plenty of choices when it comes to seeking out the best private search engines. But finding a secure and private search engine that won’t track you or keep logs of your search history is more difficult.

Below are our top seven choices of the best private search engines available right now. These are based on our exclusive tests of all the best private search engines on the market at the moment.

1. DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo screenshot

DuckDuckGo is probably the best-known and most popular of the search engines like Google these days.

If you are looking for a private search engine that can keep your search results out of the clutches of cyber-criminals and big tech companies, this alternative search engine option could be the best private search engine for you.

Searchers use Duck Duck Go mostly for private search, which is among the biggest reasons for its popularity.

On the surface, it looks and acts similar to Google, which is why a lot of people feel comfortable with it. However, beneath the surface, its method of operation is quite different.

While Google tends to collect and use your data for different purposes – sometimes to help users, sometimes to improve itself – DuckDuckGo does not store your personal information.

It is an anonymous search engine that can generate relevant search results without compromising your online privacy.

This independent search engine neither collects it nor shares your web searches and personal data. DuckDuckGo also doesn’t follow you with ads, nor does it track you in a private browsing mode like some search engines mentioned already.

It is the top private search engines if you are seeking greater privacy.

We and others highly recommend it. It makes a great alternative to Google, with similar functionality and a search results page that looks almost identical.

Duck Duck Go also has Android and iOS apps available, which means you can enjoy private search on all the most popular devices.

Feature Spotlight: Bangs

Bangs is a neat little feature that speeds up your searches by linking directly to the search results from other sites.

All you have to do is type in a simple code for another site at the start of your search, and DuckDuckGo will automatically redirect to the search results of that site.

For example, if you search ‘!VPN’, DuckDuckGo will automatically take you to the results of a search for any term on our website.

There are more than 13,500 sites with established Bangs codes on DuckDuckGo. It is a unique feature and makes your browsing experience as fast as it can be.

2. Ask

Ask search engine screenshot

Then, there is Ask. Most internet users will have stumbled across Ask sooner or later, and you may remember it as ‘Ask Jeeves’, which in its day was probably the best search engine out there for me.

What you might not know is that Ask offers some decent privacy options, such as the feature to erase all of your data and search results and prevent anyone from tracking you. As private search engines go, this makes Ask up there with the best.

However, you will have to remember to do it yourself and Ask will still try to track you, similarly to Google, unless you delete it.

This means it’s not entirely on the same level as DuckDuckGo or StartPage. These are private search engines by default, whereas Ask is not a private search engine unless you make it so.

But, to its credit and unlike Google, it does give you the option to delete all of the search history and keep your privacy intact. In other words, it all comes down to you and your desire for privacy.

If you wish, you can get rid of all your search results or leave a bit for Ask to collect and analyse.

The search engine service itself is decent enough, easy to use, and it brings back useful search results, so you might consider switching to it on that basis as well.

Feature Spotlight: Answers

A slight hangover from the Ask Jeeves days, but Ask’s results are still referred to as Answers. You will notice a few different results when you run search queries through Ask these days.

If you input search queries, you will see your answers are broken down by different variances of your question, followed by results using that precise phrase.

It is a neat little tool to help you get to the most reliable source as fast as possible. Some would say this is a precursor to ChatGPT and the other AI chatbots out there these days.

We would agree but stress that Ask is a default search engine and not on the same level as these other tools.

3. Swisscows

Swisscows screenshot

Swisscows is a private search engine based, as the name suggests, in Switzerland.

Switzerland is one of the countries with the most exceptional security and privacy awareness in the entire world. You can see this in their products, as well as their laws.

It is safe to say that almost anything that the country comes up with can be trusted, and this alone makes SwissCows one of the most dependable of all the private and anonymous search engine providers on the market today.

Swisscows does very well when it comes to security and privacy. It does not track or collect your data and your search results, and it has a Swiss Fort Knox data centre for its server infrastructure. This makes it hugely secure compared to many other search engines like Google.

It provides excellent results, although they mostly source them from Bing, which would never be our first choice as a default search engine.

Finally, SwissCows is an excellent option if you are interested in primarily reaching family-friendly content.

It is a suitable choice for children, as it stands up for moral values and digital media research, while it does not tolerate pornography or violence, while all the time ensuring that your search results are private and search ads are minimised.

Feature Spotlight: Semantic Maps

One fairly prominent feature of the Swisscows search engine is its semantic maps. These brightly coloured boxes, which appear at the side of your search results, feature a range of keywords related to your original search terms.

They are a bit like the search results of a game of associated words, and while you may not use them often, they can be a really useful feature when trying to define a vague search term.

4. Qwant

QWant search engine

Qwant is a French-based private search engine that generates results that are powered by Microsoft’s Bing but also supplemented by results from its own web crawler.

It is a privacy-friendly tool that doesn’t collect any data and makes no use of tracking cookies whatsoever.

Even better, it dissociates your search results from your IP address. This means that even if you aren’t connected to a VPN at the time of your search, it should still be rendered anonymous as it is not linked to your IP Address.

Qwant is based in the EU, and so is GDPR-compliant, but France is a member of the Nine-Eyes intelligence group of countries, so you should be a little wary.

It is also not the most feature-heavy of search engines, and some of its results, especially on local search queries, can leave a bit to be desired.

But if the privacy of your search history is more important to you, Qwant delivers.

Feature Spotlight: Search Shortcuts

One feature that Qwant does offer is search shortcuts.

This works rather like DuckDuckGo’s Bang’s feature. If you input a code for a particular website at the start of your search, Qwant will automatically redirect you to search results from that website.

For example, if you search for ‘&w VPN’, you will be redirected to Wikipedia’s VPN page. As with DuckDuckGo, this is a great tool for making your search request as fast as possible.

5. Metager

Metager

MetaGer is a German-based, open-source private search engine that pulls results from a range of different search engines, including Bing, Yahoo!, Yandex, and its own web crawler.

It is operated by a German non-profit organisation known as the Association for Free Access to Knowledge. Like StartPage (see below), MetaGer converts search requests into anonymous queries through a proxy server which allows it to offer the same anonymous viewing option.

Unlike mainstream search engines, MetaGer doesn’t use cookies or any other tracking methods when processing search results, and although it does log some user information, this is all deleted after 96 hours.

While you will see a few ads on MetaGer, which is not ideal for private search engines, you do have the option to become a paid member for 100% ad-free content.

Feature Spotlight: Onion site

As well as its regular search engine site, MetaGer also hosts a .onion site.

This is a hidden service which uses the Tor network for enhanced privacy of user’s search results.

If you want to search the internet with total anonymity, this search engine is a cast-iron option to do just that with all the security that the Tor network has to offer, something that few other private search engines offer.

6. Ecosia

Ecosia

Ecosia is a search engine that is powered by Microsoft Bing. It claims to be privacy-focused. However, if you look more closely at their privacy policy, you’ll discover that these claims are questionable.

Ecosia will collect your search data alongside personal information such as your IP Address. So, why are we listing this among our rundown of the best private search engines?

This personal data and your search history are deleted after seven days, and Ecosia says all this data is only used to improve its web services.

This is much better than search engines like Google. However, it does share the information with Bing, too, and Microsoft’s reputation for data privacy is far from impressive like most other search engines.

What Ecosia does do well is boost your green credentials.

Internet companies contribute huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and Google is inevitably one of the worst offenders.

Ecosia donates 80% of its profits to tree-planting projects, which means it plants a tree for around every 50 searches; around 181 million so far, apparently, and it claims to be planting a new tree every 1.3 seconds.

This is great for the environment, but when it comes to the privacy of your search results, Ecosia is still somewhat lacking.

Feature Spotlight: Video resolution search

Ecosia’s layout will be familiar to Google users, but one neat feature can be found under the Videos tab.

Here, you can search for videos by resolution. This means you can select the minimum resolution for your video results. Options are 480p, 720p, 1080p, or any resolution. So if you need a high-quality video, Ecosia can help you find one faster.

7. StartPage

StartPage screenshot

Lastly, on this rundown of private search engines, there is StartPage, formerly known as ixquick, which makes the bold claim as “The world’s most private search engine”.

It is similar to other popular search engines on this list, including DuckDuckGo, in the sense that it does not store any personal data or IP Addresses of its users or, more importantly, your search results.

However, it is still capable of providing you with a top-quality service thanks to the fact that it takes your search and runs it through Google. When Google brings the information back, StartPage sends it on until it reaches you.

In a way, it is like using Google, but with StartPage acting as a user-friendly security layer between you and Google itself. You can get Google search results and maintain user privacy.

That way, your IP address does not get tracked, you do not have issues with cookies, and Google has no idea who is searching behind the security of a popular private search engine in StartPage.

This is why it is one of the best choices for those who seek to use private search engines but still want to benefit from Google’s search technology while ensuring your search queries remain private.

We previously recommended Startpage much higher, but after being bought by an advertising company, we’ve dropped them down to the last spot as there are several unanswered questions about this search engine.

Feature Spotlight: Anonymous View

When you run a search in StartPage, you will see that all the non-sponsored results feature an option called ‘Anonymous View’ after the search results URL.

Clicking on this link means you can visit the site completely anonymously with no tracking cookies, social media tracking pixels, website fingerprinting, or any other privacy-busting features being used against you.

The website and your Internet Service Provider only see that you are visiting StartPage.com. You can even navigate around the site and remain in Anonymous mode.

What is the best way to search the internet privately?

Searching the internet and ensuring private search results has become a significant focus these days as the awareness of information collecting and tracking continues to grow.

The best way of doing it is by using one of the private search engines, like the ones listed above. These private search engines will keep your privacy safe and not collect any data from you or your search terms and search history.

An additional method you can use to generate search results that are private is to use a VPN service to protect yourself and encrypt your search history.

With a VPN, all of your traffic will be encrypted and shielded by security protocols, and not even Google will be able to see and record your real IP address, as a fake one will replace it.

With search engines like Google, Bing, et al, and unlike the anonymous search engines we have recommended in this guide, they will see your browsing data, but unless you have logged in, they will not be able to trace it back to you.

ExpressVPN is the best choice for a VPN to use with third-party search engines, as it has excellent privacy and security features, but also fast download speeds and a massive selection of IP addresses and servers.

This means with more search engines, you can be sure you will get fast and unbiased search results.

How ExpressVPN works

Alternatively, NordVPN and IPVanish are nearly as good, so you can definitely consider those as well.

Just remember that even if you are using a VPN, if you log into Google or another search service, then your search history and search terms can still be recorded.

Is StartPage a VPN?

No, StartPage is another proxy search engine made by ixquick, as mentioned earlier.

It offers pretty much the same privacy settings and features as ixquick itself did. That means not having to worry about cookies, IP addresses, and the like. Even so, there are differences, such as the way StartPage displays the results.

If you want to learn more about what a VPN is, then our handy beginner’s guide to VPN will tell you all you need to know.

What is the most secure search engine?

There is no simple way to measure or answer a question about the most secure search engine.

All search engines that put your privacy first have their strengths and weaknesses, and pointing out the best private search engines that are also secure is difficult.

Some of them may feel better to you than others, but in the end – the choice is yours. You can choose search engines of all kinds to suit your individual requirements.

Secure search

There are many others apart from the ones mentioned on this list.

Brave Search is one that comes up regularly and also offers some security benefits, and although we rate the private search engines we have recommended as the best, it pays to do your research and consult multiple sources to consider other search engine options like Brave Search too.

Which search engine is best for user privacy?

Any search engine that does not record your searches and data and does not bombard you with cookies and ads can be considered a suitable search engine for your privacy.

Most private search engines are pretty good.

Take DuckDuckGo as an example – the service collects absolutely nothing, and you can use it safely, all the while knowing that no one is collecting your information and creating a profile about your likes and dislikes for ad targeting and other nefarious purposes.

All of the popular private search engines we listed above are good. Only keep in mind that Ask might try to track your browsing, but it also gives you the ability to delete it all and prevent it from doing so.

Why do people prefer Google over DuckDuckGo?

The fact is that Google does its job well, even though it collects your data. It’s also become a household name because, quite simply, Google is the best of the multiple search engines on the market right now.

How many times have you heard the phrase “Google it” or “I’ll Google it” as a generic meaning for searching for something?

Besides, most people do not see any immediate consequences as a result of Google’s data collecting. Many would argue that they never got in trouble with the law, lost friends, or had issues at their jobs because Google collects their data.

DuckDuckGo mascot

As long as it does not directly affect their lives, people do not tend to care about what happens to their personal data, which is not the most positive of attitudes, but it does make it understandable, and we are mostly all guilty of this out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality.

Add the fact that Google is familiar and that it has been around for years, and it is easy to understand why people don’t bother to change to private search engines or use more reliable proxy search engines such as the ones we have recommended in this guide.

Does Google track your browser history?

Unfortunately, yes, but only if you are using Google Chrome.

Google was quick to put out its browser and start dominating when it comes to all kinds of services. The fact that all Google products work simply kept attracting people. However, it also allowed Google to keep collecting your data.

Padlock inside a security shield

It can even collect your browsing history if you are logged in and associate this with your IP Address, so if that is one of your concerns – keep that in mind.

When using Chrome, Google will not only have access to what you search but also a whole detailed history of every site you visit and any IP Addresses you use. In this case, you may want to make use of a different web browser.

Can we trust Google?

The answer to that depends on you and every other individual user.

Google collects all user’s personal data, yes.

It analyses it, stores it, and uses it to target you with ads. It tracks your phone, and it can tell where you are, where you have been, and what you did online.

With some 94.93% of mobile phone searches done through Google search alone, it pays to take note. Desktop searches are just as high with a reported 83.53% of search done via Google.

Mobile search market share

Source: https://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share/mobile/worldwide

However, while much of this appears to be done to improve the quality of service, it is also used to tailor targeting to you.

It delivers better results, it shows you relevant ads, and it simply makes using it worthwhile.

But it still tracks you and stores your data and compromises user privacy, so it is up to you to decide if you can live with the privacy implications for the ease of use it provides or if you want to switch to a new search engine.

Summary

Google is the world’s biggest search engine, but its business model is one that stores every scrap of your data it can find, as well as your IP addresses and reams of other personal data.

It understands the importance of information, and it collects it and uses it to provide a better service as well as to boost its own profits. While this is not a bad thing for the user experience, many have a problem with that, which is why you might want to shift towards a secure search engine.

Google is a business, and it uses the tools at its disposal to do what it does best. It takes things in return as well, but that is how companies work.

Whether or not this is a problem for you is your decision to make. It is down to you to manage search engine options and features that you are using. If you decide that it is a problem you – there are plenty of alternatives, seven of which we’ve listed above.

Choose one of the privacy-focused search engine providers we have recommended and enjoy searching the web more securely than before.

Private search engine options are plentiful, and they offer a secure, private way to search the internet without compromising your online security and privacy. And that, for me, is well worth the effort.

Illustrations © Studiophotomh, Farrukh Maqbool, Rahman Malikzade & Ekaterina Muzyka | Dreamstime.com

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 7 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

Comments

  1. Nice article, Ali. Thanks for recommending Startpage.com for search privacy.

    You’re right. Startpage.com offers excellent protections, but it’s not a VPN. I like to use a VPN along with Startpage and its Anonymous View feature that help protect against fingerprinting. Layering tech makes sense.

  2. Liz McIntyre

    Thanks! Drop me an email sometime or ping me at reddit r/privacy. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *