What is a no-tracking search engine?

When you hear “search engine,” you think Google. They’re the biggest search engine around; their name’s a verb, synonymous with search. So everyone assumes they’re the best.

But people don’t realize what exactly Google does. It’s far more than just a search engine—at heart, Google is an advertising company. Google Adwords allows companies to bid for banner ads on the front page. To improve its ability to deliver relevant ads and boost sales, Google builds a digital profile of everyone who uses their services.

What does that mean? It means that when you’re logged in to Google and you enter a search into YouTube, Google records it. Program a location into Google Maps? Google knows that, too. And of course, every search you make through the Google search engine is tracked and saved, all to help Google and other third parties show you better ads.

But it gets worse: Google could easily get hacked for your data, or give it to other Big Tech companies…or even the government.

Uncomfortable with that level of surveillance? Not to worry. There are some basic steps you can take to limit what Google sees. To start, you can block Google from tracking your search history. Or you could access Google in a privacy browser like Brave.

But the most effective way to keep Google from seeing what you search is to stop using Google altogether. There are a number of other search engines out there that do not track your search history. These no-tracking search engines deliver high-quality results without the threat of Google’s surveillance.

What is a ‘no-tracking’ search engine?

No-tracking search engines can work in a few different ways. Some still use Google as the core search provider, but relay your search query through their servers. This proxying means that all Google sees lots of search queries coming from one source—they’re note tied to you or any other individual.

Other search engines use their own web crawlers to build the index necessary to answer requests. While others use a combination of sources including crowdsourced information like Wikipedia, their own web crawlers, and various third-party search indexes.

What sets no-tracking search engines apart isn’t the information they give, but the information they don’t give. By refusing to collect data on users, no-tracking search engines distinguish themselves from Google or Bing; there’s no profile to share with advertisers.

What are the best no-tracking search engines?

Which no-tracking search engines are best? We’ve listed some of the main ones below.

Brave Search doesn’t track you or your searches. Ever. Brave Search is far more private than Google, Bing, or other major search providers. But, unlike the other “private” or “neutral” search providers on this list, Brave is also independent: It delivers results from its own independent index of the web. That means it’s not beholden to Big Tech, and it’s transparent on how it ranks search results. There’s no conflict of interest to advertisers.

Most Brave Browser users can set Brave Search as the default search engine in Brave or most other major browsers, and then search from the address bar of any browser tab. To check the default search engine in the Brave Browser, open the settings page at brave://settings/search.

You can also use Brave Search by visiting search.brave.com from any browser.

2. DuckDuckGo

Privacy-minded search results, with no tracking or online profile. DuckDuckGo pulls from a number of open-source and crowdsourced databases, as well as using its own web crawlers. It does not rely on simply “reprocessing” Google or Bing results.

Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t build a user profile, it always shows the same results to everyone.

DuckDuckGo shows that you can get great search results in a simple and clean format, without Google’s unnecessary clutter and sponsored results. Although the results might not be quite as accurate or refined as Google, DuckDuckGo keeps you anonymous and does not pass your information on to third-party data brokers.

Yahoo predates Google and has always been more of a platform than a simple search engine. You’ll find Yahoo! Finance for all your business news, and a better range of results for images as well.

Yahoo! scores better for privacy as well. If you want a longstanding Google alternative that offers more than simple search results, Yahoo! might be the way to go.

4. Startpage

Startpage takes advantage of Google’s own search engine, meaning that the results Startpage returns will look much closer to Google’s own results than many other private search engines. Most of the others on this list rely on Bing search feeds.

At the same time, Startpage delivers Google-like results minus the extensive data collection. Based in the Netherlands, Startpage adheres to the notoriously strict Dutch and European privacy standards. You are also able to customize your search criteria and results. Startpage does show ads on its search results pages, though the ads should be generated based on your search query, not on any user-specific profile.

5. WolframAlpha

Part search engine, part AI, WolframAlpha is a bird of a slightly different feather. The engine professes not to track user profiles or information and relies on advanced algorithms and natural-language processing to deliver search results.

Thus, while WolframAlpha can safely tell you the most popular beaches in Hawaii, it can also quite literally do your complicated algebra homework for you - step by step.

6. Ecosia

Based on the Bing search engine, Ecosia is a browser with a twist: it plants trees while you search. You can call it the first eco-friendly private browser, using roughly 80% of the money from search-based ads to plant trees and support reforestation efforts. The idea is a great one, and Ecosia seems sincere in their efforts. However, the search results are powered by Bing, which in turn stems from Microsoft - raising some concerns about how the data is handled downstream.

7. Qwant

Like all private browsers, Qwant does not create a user profile. Unlike other private browsers, you can register with Qwant - and then it will create a profile and receive customized ads.

While that may seem unusual for a private browser, Qwant uses it as a way to deliver private browsing with a safely-anonymous form of the personalized ads users expect from major search engines like Google.

8. Yippy

In many ways, Yippy is your “standard” private browser. No user data is saved, and ads are generated based on search terms rather than an extensive user profile. Yippy also offers a fairly high degree of customization and allows you to search for different genres of results - videos, news, government data, etc.

9. Gibiru

Gibiru is another browser that uses an encrypted connection to search Google for you, scrubbing Google’s trackers in the process. The results you get should look like an anonymized form of Google’s own results.

10. Searx

Searx is a search engine that searches other search engines, also known as a “metasearch engine”. When you enter a search query into Searx, it searches Yahoo, Google, and other engines for you - anonymously, of course. The service is supported by user donations, meaning there are no ads on the search results.

11. Swisscows

Unsurprisingly, Swisscows is based in the Alps; no part of its infrastructure is located outside Switzerland. Like Startpage, this means that Swisscows is bound by Swiss and EU privacy laws. Swisscows uses its own proprietary web crawler and doesn’t rely on Google, Bing, or Yahoo results.

12. Gigablast

The Gigablast interface looks decidedly outdated; in part, that’s because the browser has been around since 2002. Gigablast uses its own index of web pages to perform searches - it doesn’t repackage results from Google or Bing. It also promises to keep your data private.

13. MetaGer

A German search engine, MetaGer is also a VPN-lite; it not only searches other engines on your behalf, it also routes the request through an anonymizing server. It’s two layers of protection in one! In part because of this added feature, MetaGer is slowly growing in popularity outside its home country. It is also an open-source search engine, allowing anyone to see how it works.

14. Lukol

A streamlined, anonymized search engine delivering Google results without the Google surveillance: that’s Lukol in a nutshell. There are no options to filter search results, just the simple tabs for video, news, etc. However, Lukol refuses to track your searches, so you get a “Google-lite” without Google’s spying.

15. Oscobo

Like Lukol and others, Oscobo blocks third-party trackers on your searches, keeping your search habits private. The company doesn’t track your searches for itself either, and uses an encrypted connection, meaning that your search results are something only you can see.

Search engines and your browser

Browsers can track your search history, and so can search engines. If you want a truly private browsing experience, you need to keep both on the same page. You need a private browser and a search engine that also values your data.

The Brave Browser blocks third-party trackers and unwanted ads. It goes above and beyond to keep your data safe, making Brave Search the perfect complement. Most Brave Browser users can set Brave Search as the default search engine in Brave or most other major browsers, and then search from the address bar of any browser tab. To check the default search engine in the Brave Browser, open the settings page at brave://settings/search.

You can also use Brave Search by visiting search.brave.com from any browser.

Adding a no-tracking search engine to a private browser like Brave gives you an extra measure of privacy on the Internet. Brave Shields protects you from trackers, while Brave’s Private Browsing with Tor delivers an anonymous browsing experience. Download Brave and discover a more private Internet.

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