The Best Google Alternatives - Stay private with these alternative search engines

Have you ever considered using a search engine other than Google? If not, why not?

In this article, we’ll be listing some of our favorite alternative search engines, and explaining why Google is actually more intrusive, and less private than you might realize.

What are the best Google alternatives?

Fortunately, there are alternatives to Google’s search engine that offer great privacy as well as usage features that are not available through Google. If you want more information about these providers, keep scrolling.

  1. DuckDuckGo - The best all-round Google alternative.
  2. Qwant - Searching in privacy at its finest, without censorship
  3. Peekier - The private search engine that offers greater insight
  4. Ecosia - The most environmentally proactive private search engine on our list
  5. Swisscows - The Swiss search engine with no fluff

Best Google Search alternatives

For our visual comparison, we used the same search terms across each website to observe the layout and presentation available to users. Here is the search for a “Graphics card” on Google for comparison:

DuckDuckGo is the most popular search engine for privacy enthusiasts.

  • Free option

    Yes

duckduckgo search


DuckDuckGo is a US-based search engine that just searches, DuckDuckGo vows not to use tracking and ad targeting – even in private browsing! Despite controversy with DuckDuckGo sourcing its searches from Yahoo (and Yahoo’s ties to the NSA), CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg claims “if the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you”.


DuckDuckGo is a fully featured and customizable search engine that provides far superior privacy in comparison to Google. With the increasingly popular and unique Bangs shortcut feature, you can quickly go to search results on other sites such as Amazon, Steam, and Reddit without having to use advanced search operators. Bangs can also be used through Startpage.com with the commands !s and !sp (for private browsing).



Note: While Startpage is a very good alternative to Google, it has recently been acquired by the digital advertising company System1, which brings its privacy claims under scrutiny. To this end, we cannot currently confirm whether their privacy has been affected.


The European privacy-oriented search engine that promises neutrality and impartiality.

  • Free option

    Yes

Qwant search


Qwant is based in Paris, France, Qwant offers thoroughly customizable results without compromising on data privacy. Search results on Qwant are uncensored and unbiased, meaning that results do not go through a preliminary commercial, political or moral filter before you see them. Couple this with their panoramic search functionality, and you get the most relevant and neutral results from across the web on the same page. 


Qwant also comes with some great features, including theme and personalization settings, as well as regional search filters, date filters, obscenity filters, and even quick-access link settings. These settings let you select whether videos and outgoing links open in new tabs, as well as whether trends, news, and social media are displayed. Qwant also provides a homepage URL for you to bookmark so that your preferences are there when you return.


Being based in the EU Qwant is subject to stronger privacy legislation than its American competition. On top of this, nothing is stored, and no personal data is harvested. If you’re looking for an alternative to Google, and don’t want to use an American engine, Qwant is the way to go.

The private search engine that lets you preview each webpage.

  • Free option

    Yes

Peekier search


Peekier has a totally unique interface, Peekier is an excellent alternative to Google. It makes the most of space on your device and makes sure that there are no vacuous white spaces. This striking visual design is a great look at how search engines may evolve, and helps users to get the right result quicker.


Defaulting to a “strict” safe search option, it stores search terms in the hash of the URL (the part after the #), preventing query leaks and increasing your overall privacy. The website previews for search results are generated on Peekier’s own servers and displayed in your browser as a rendered image, meaning that there is no added risk from malicious sites. On top of this, Peekier collects no personally identifiable information (IP addresses, user agents, etc.), and the only cookies may come as a single session cookie from Cloudflare to prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Peekier is a real up-and-comer with promising future applications, and is a great alternative to Google, both for its aesthetics and for privacy.

The search engine that lets you save the environment and privately search the web at the same time.

  • Free option

    Yes

Ecosia search results.


Ecosia is great if you want to do your bit for the environment while keeping your privacy online, then look no further than Ecosia. With encrypted searches and a “Do Not Track” option, Ecosia offers a greener way to be private online. While it does use cookies and shares data with third parties for internal purposes, Ecosia is a great alternative to Google that lets you track and trace their progress in planting trees.


Ecosia also has great functionality, with region and date filters, as well as quick links to sites such as Amazon and YouTube. One feature in particular that drew our attention was the live tree counter on the homepage (with nearly 94 million trees planted as of May 2020). Coupling this with a counter that lets you know how many searches you have made, you can work out your own contribution to the project; with an approximate 45 searches = 1 tree planted. Ecosia is a fun and eco-conscious alternative to Google, and while it is more private than the search engine giant, it is not the most private alternative featured on this list.

The family-friendly private search engine.

  • Free option

    Yes


Swisscows is an innovative privacy-oriented search engine that filters out sexual and/or pornographic content. Swisscows is a popular alternative to Google for those who are conscious about keeping their family private online. By far the most interesting feature on Swisscows’ website, the “semantic map” feature shows terms that are most related to your current search, helping you to narrow down your results.


Swisscows’ excellent data privacy benefits from strong Swiss data laws and promises not to record any data from its users. On top of this, Swisscows does not use any cookies, and does not distribute or exchange any information (unless legally required, or justifiably necessary for either Swisscows or its users). Swisscows is the ideal alternative to Google for privacy-conscious families.

Other honorable mentions for private search engines include: Searx, Metager, Mojeek and Gibiru.

First and foremost, there is a reason that almost 92% of internet searches go through Google: it offers an easy-to-use service and provides some excellent usage features. But these features come at the cost of intruding on your privacy, and the monetization of your data.

In fact, Google has come under scrutiny more than once in relation to how it collects and processes user data (with the most recent being launched by the Data Protection Commission in February of this year). With 94% of Android apps, and more than 53% of all websites on the internet, containing Google’s adware and analytics, your data may be far less private than you might realize.

Google uses “unique identifier” cookies to distinguish users with varying permanency. With these cookies, Google can store, and later recall and process, your IP address, the time, date, and terms of your search, and any previous cookie IDs stored on your device. Google argues that these cookies serve to provide a more tailored experience, but this “experience” is shared with Google and its partners:

[[post-object type="blockquote" author="Google Privacy Policy (as of May 2020)"]][Google] may share non-personally identifiable information publicly and with our partners — like publishers, advertisers, developers, or rights holders. For example, we share information publicly to show trends about the general use of our services. We also allow specific partners to collect information from your browser or device for advertising and measurement purposes using their own cookies or similar technologies.[[/post-object]]

So what does this mean for the everyday user? In short, Google and its partner companies can, and do, spy on you. In doing so, they generate usage data which is then marketed onwards. By employing tracking cookies, Google creates a profile about you as a user and targets traffic that corresponds with your search and usage trends. In short, Google knows what you are accessing, when you access it, and what you will probably access next.

Hide your IP address with a VPN

How does Google make money out of your data?

The above alternatives to Google have one major common ground: respect for users’ privacy. With this in mind, we want to reiterate the intrusive nature of Google’s data privacy (or lack thereof), and the ways in which they (and their partners) monetize your data, and create in-depth and exploitative personal profiles.

Despite claiming that they would never sell your personal information, Google, like so many big companies, uses tracking cookies to generate a portfolio of interests and usage data on an individual user, and then allows advertisers to target people based on those portfolios – asking them to bid on individual ads to be shown to you.

These same user profiles are also distributed to companies, who will then decide which ads they want targeted at which profiles. When a user clicks on these adverts, they share any cookie IDs, their IP address, geolocation, and other data that Google is able to transfer. This transfer of data not only generates further targeted advertising but also financially benefits from the exploitation of usage and personal data (albeit indirectly), and opens up a Pandora’s Box of potential privacy leaks and problems.

If you would rather not be digital cattle offered up by Google for the advertising slaughter, we strongly recommend trying one of the above alternatives. Keep your data free from exploitation by using one of our recommended private browsers and search engines.

 

Written by: Andreas Theodorou

Andreas is a Technology Writer at ProPrivacy.com. Having graduated with a first class BA (Hons) in English, he completed a Master of Research degree at Liverpool John Moores University and has continued to pursue research at every opportunity. An experienced writer, editor, and artist, he is currently studying video-games and popular culture in his spare time.

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