In the last five years, privacy has grown into a major concern for anyone using the internet. When Edward Snowden, and other organizations, released information regarding how companies and the NSA, are tracking citizens, privacy became an even bigger issue. People have turned to many tools to protect themselves and their information. Among these, private search engines have seen an increase in traffic recently.
In May 2017 privacy-based search engine Search Encrypt’s Alexa Ranking was 13,000 (the 13000th most visited website globally). Now, Search Encrypt‘s global ranking is 2,400. In the U.S. Search Encrypt is ranked 595. Another popular private search engine, DuckDuckGo, increased their rank from 470 in May up to 343 now. This increase in traffic for private search tools means that people are getting serious about protecting their personal data.
PRIVATE SEARCH ENGINES
Private search tools, like Search Incognito, have a different business model than big search engines. It’s a shame that Google and Bing feel that they have to track users to have success. Search Incognito and other privacy-based search engines don’t track users and their information. Privacy and search engines can exist in unison, despite the popular belief that they can’t.
Google uses your internet use data to serve you “meaningful ads”. When it serves these ads, is Google really helping you? It seems more likely that these ads just encourage you to buy products that you probably don’t need.
HOW DO PRIVATE SEARCH ENGINES MAKE MONEY?
Most secure or private search tools make money through ads and affiliate revenue. Search Incognito does not serve ads based on your past searches, but displays ads based on your current search term. We don’t store any of your personal information or use it to target you with ads.
Because we have a different business model, we can deliver a more user-focused product. Google emphasizes positive user experiences and sells users on tailoring their web experiences. However, Google benefits from the huge amounts of data they get. Because privacy based products don’t share or track this, we’re able to focus more on making our search engine user-friendly.
DIGITAL PRIVACY & DATA SECURITY
So much of the internet relies on trust between companies and consumers. However, in many cases companies share very little on how they collect, use and store your information. People can choose to keep hoping that Google will only use their data in ethical ways. But, there are no guarantees that this will happen. Another concern is how Google stores this information. While they are obligated to store it in a secure way, hacks could jeopardize huge amounts of information. Search Incognito believes that users will be better off if this data is never even stored in the first place.
Too many people allow Google to convince them that sharing data is necessary to have good web experiences. We believe that if more websites and companies used products with full privacy by design, the internet would improve across the board. In the meantime, use these “8 Ways to Protect Your Digital Privacy” to avoid many issues.
Search Engine Giants Know Way More Than You Probably Knew
Search engines are unique because they have become a near-necessity for anyone browsing the web. Despite internet users making more than 6.5 billion searches per day across all search engines, most people are in the dark about how they actually work.
While people browsing the web are simply looking for information, or a certain webpage, Google uses all the data from these searches and internet use to understand people’s behavior. Although Google makes it clear that they encrypt your data for security and privacy, the fact that the data is transmitted at all makes many people uneasy.
What is Search Privacy?
Want to see something creepy? Click around in your Google History and look at the information that Google tracks. Not only will you see anything you’ve ever searched for, you will see all the places you’ve ever been signed into Google. This includes your drive to work in the morning, and that’s just the beginning.
With that mountain of information, Google can tell a lot about you: where you live, your hobbies, age, health problems, religion and more.
In October 2016, ProPublicareported that Google quietly got rid of its ban on combining online ad tracking with users’ names. Prior to this change, Google kept information like users’ names and Gmail addresses separate from browsing and search information.
Cookie ID — This cookie is deposited in your browse and allows search engines to uniquely identify your computer.
How Should You Protect Search Privacy?
Choose Your ISP Carefully
Most ISPs (internet service providers) harvest user data. A group of smaller providers recently wrote a letter opposing the changes in the FCC’s privacy rules allowing ISPs to harvest and sell this data. Do some research to determine how your provider uses your data. Unfortunately, many people are stuck with only one or two choices for broadband providers.
ISPs, along with search engines, hope to use the data they acquire to reach customers with more targeted advertisements. Ars Technica explains that ISPs want to become “advertising powerhouses,” on the same level as Google and Facebook.
Use A VPN
VPN, or virtual private networks, allow you to connect to the internet through a remote (or virtual) server. As a result, the data sent between your device and this server is securely encrypted. Using a VPN gives you privacy by hiding your internet behavior from both your ISP and any other group that may be tracking your browsing information. These also work to access blocked websites, that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get to due to internet filters at school or work.
There are quite a few solid options out there for VPNs. They typically cost between $5–10 per month. It can be handy to have a VPN, though, if you need to remotely access a server or a website that isn’t available, while travelling.
Which Search Engines Protect Privacy?
Many of these search engines actually use results from the search giants, like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. Rather than allowing these search engines to track your searches, they encrypt your data to keep your searches private. These privacy-centric search engines don’t log your IP address or any of your searches.
These search engines simply have a different business model than other search engines. Rather than making money by selling data, these engines profit from ads displayed on their site or affiliate marketing sales.
DuckDuckGo is probably the most well-known alternative search engine. Its CEO, Gabriel Weinberg, said, “if the FBI comes to us, we have nothing to tie back to you.” Searches are sourced mostly from Yahoo. One cool feature of DuckDuckGo is what it calls “bangs”. Users can directly search other sites, like Amazon, Wikipedia, Yelp or Youtube, by starting their query with an exclamation mark!
Search Incognito protects your privacy by detecting searches that may be tracked and tied to your personal information. It intercepts those searches and redirects them to Search Incognito’s privacy-enhanced search engine which will be set to your default search engine. Search Incognito is supported by sponsored ads featured on our search results page.
Search Encrypt is unique because, while you can use it as a “normal” search engine, it changes how other search engines work. If you want to use Google as your search engine, you can do so with Search Encrypt. Installed as a browser extension, it automatically avoids any searches that may track you. It redirects your search to its own results page that is completely secure so your search stays private. Search Encrypt encrypts your searches locally that even your browser history will expire after 15 minutes.
StartPage uses results from Google, which is a good thing if you prefer Google’s result without the tracking. Ixquick, which is an independent search engine that uses its own results, developed StartPage to include results from Google. Its features include a proxy service, URL generator, and HTTPS support. The URL generator is a unique feature that eliminates the need for cookies. It remembers your settings in a privacy friendly way.
Beyond these, there are many “privacy-based” search engines out there that work well. A quick Google (or, uh…DuckDuckGo) search should turn up a good list.
Search Engine Privacy Issues
People working on the security side of technology recognize that the security tech realm isn’t where it should be. Much of the sensitive data that is stored is stored forever, even though it may no longer be useful or relevant.
The majority of our communication data now is tracked in some way. If this information is always available, some one is always at risk of having confidential data leaked or hacked. Search engine data falls victim to the same risks.
Most search engines use individual tracking. This means they track information about your internet usage and other behaviors. Although search engines may encrypt your data on their side, someone with access to your computer could still find information.
Another issue with search engine privacy is the sheer volume of data each must process. Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day. If just .01% of the search data is compromised, that equates to 350,000 searches. In terms of big (enormous) data, 99.99% is not good enough.