Some folks don’t mind. But others don’t like their online behavior monitored, tracked and marketed. They want their business to be their business only. They feel their privacy is compromised. They prefer freedom of speech, to not be force-fed or directed in search engine results.
If that’s you and you want or are curious about alternative tools that can work for you, read on.
There are browsers and search engines that don’t try record your every action and protect you from trackers.
Start with alternatives to Google’s Chrome browser, which handles about 60% of web traffic. It’s curious that one of Google’s founders is the son of Russian immigrants, who presumedly came here to enjoy freedom of speech (among other things), created a browser and search engine that suppresses freedom of speech and controls the behavior of its users by subtle and intricate means.
Below are some alternatives to Chrome that are focused more on delivering security and privacy-first. Try them and test them for speed against Chrome or Edge and see if you notice any real difference.
Brave – learn more at https://brave.com/download/
The Brave browser was designed to make privacy simple enough for everyone. It is an open source browser built on top of Chromium (an open source version of the Chrome browser), which means it’s easy for Chrome users to make the switch.
However, unlike Chrome, Brave does not collect any data about your online activity. Your data remains private and on your device.
Brave also makes blocking trackers easy. Instead of forcing users to decide which plugins and browser extensions they should download, Brave comes fully equipped. It automatically blocks all third-party and advertising cookies, and because HTTPS Everywhere is built-in, it ensures all your connections are securely HTTPS encrypted. Brave also features Fingerprinting Protection in the browser.
Firefox – learn more at https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/
The open source Firefox is the third-most-popular browser on the Internet, behind Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari. Developed by Mozilla, the Firefox team has improved the browser’s privacy protections in recent years.
They have introduced advanced anti-fingerprinting and Enhanced Tracking Protection features this year, both of which make it much more difficult for third-party trackers to follow you around the Internet.
Unlike Brave, the standard Firefox does not automatically block advertisements. However, there are numerous browser extensions that you can download that will prevent advertisers from getting your information or showing you ads.
Tor browsers – learn more at https://www.torproject.org/download/
As we have discussed elsewhere, Tor is the best option if privacy is your utmost concern. The Tor browser is based on Firefox, but it has been stripped down and specially calibrated to run on the Tor network.
When you use Tor, your traffic is encrypted three times and bounced between three Tor servers before it reaches your desired website. The encryption is handled in such a way that each server only has access to one set of instructions, so no server has access to both your IP address and the website you are visiting.
This setup makes it impossible for Tor to keep any records about your online activity, and every time you close your session, the browser deletes your cookie cache and browsing history. The browser itself is formatted to prevent fingerprinting, and it blocks all kinds of trackers.
Safari – for Mac – learn more at https://www.apple.com/safari/
Apple touts that its own browser, Safari, is the “best browser for your Mac,” and that may very well be the case, at least as far as its security and privacy features are concerned. According to Apple, Safari actually uses machine learning to prevent the tracking of your personal data, including your browsing history. Safari is able to do this by using machine learning to detect advertisers and other trackers and then removing their “cross-site tracking data.” Safari also offers a number of other helpful security features including: Sandboxing, warnings for unsafe websites, Private Browsing (which includes a DuckDuckGo default search engine), and the auto-generation of strong passwords that can be auto filled and stored for all of a user’s Apple devices.
Safari also works with iCloud Keychain, which is an optional feature which allows you to store and autofill sensitive data (like usernames, passwords, credit card information, and social media account logins) for any given device you’ve approved of. The best part of iCloud Keychain is that it uses end-to-end encryption to protect your sensitive data. Such encryption doesn’t even allow Apple to have access to it.
Search engines can be used in any browser. The most popular is Google’s Chrome. Microsoft Edge browser is built into every Windows operating system, so it’s on every computer. Edge defaults to the MSFT Bing search engine. Both Google and Bing track your searches and other online activity.
Following are the best private search engines to consider as alternatives. These meet the following criteria:
- Maintains your privacy (doesn’t track any data)
- Delivers appropriate search results
- Has an easy-to-use interface
- Provides settings options for a customized experience
Startpage – learn more at https://www.startpage.com/
Startpage (previously called IXquick) is a metasearch engine based in the Netherlands. It takes its results from Google and delivers them to the user. As such, it essentially acts as a proxy for users to view Google search results without being tracked by the company. Startpage was recently crowned the best search engine available, even beating out Google.
The service doesn’t track any of your information, including your search queries.
DuckDuckGo – learn more at https://duckduckgo.com/
DuckDuckGo is very popular with privacy enthusiasts and is the default search engine in the Tor browser. The US-based service has its own crawler (called DuckDuckBot), but also pulls information from over 400 other sources.
This search engine does save searches but they are not tied to an individual user.
DuckDuckGo displays ads for affiliate sites in the right sidebar, which is a little less aggressive than Google which presents ads at the top of search results. It earns additional profits from commissions from sites like Amazon and eBay, so you may want to be wary if those pop up a lot in search results.
Swisscows – learn more at https://swisscows.com/
Swisscows is based in Switzerland and available in eight languages, including English, Italian, and Spanish. It partners with Bing so most search results are from that search engine. However, Swisscows differs from other search engines in the way it delivers results. It uses semantic technology to determine the most useful results for the user.
It doesn’t store or track any personal user information such as IP address or search queries. The company prides itself on the fact that all servers are located in Switzerland, a country known for its strong privacy laws.
If you’re looking for a private search engine for your family to use, Swisscows could be a good fit. It aims to be a child-friendly search engine by filtering out adult content such as pornography and violence.
SearX – learn more at https://searx.me/
Searx is a metasearch engine that’s open source and available on GitHub. This is a non-profit initiative so you won’t see ads at the top of your search results page. Although there is a main Searx website (searx.me), you’ll find this search engine on many other sites, as it’s possible to run it yourself.
That said, if you’re planning to run your own instance for personal use, bear in mind that your search queries won’t be aggregated with those of other users. That means less anonymity. Also note that if you use an instance of searx other than the official one, you’re trusting the administrator of that instance with your data.
Searx provides a proxy option which enables you to continue to mask your identity when you click through to a website. The interface is basic and relatively straightforward. Search results were appropriate, but the search engine is having issues with Google and other sources so errors are delivered for some terms.
MetaGer – learn more at https://metager.org/
MetaGer is based in Germany and operated by non-profit organization, SuMa-eV. It provides results in a few different languages: English, German, and Spanish. MetaGer has its own web crawlers and indexers, but it’s primarily a metasearch engine, querying up to 50 search engines, including Yahoo and Bing.
The software behind this search engine is open source which means anyone can view and audit its code. MetaGer has a .onion site that can be accessed through the Tor network.
Aside from MetaGer, SuMa-eV has an application in another area dominated by Google. Its map service and route planner (Maps.MetaGer.de) doesn’t log or monitor users’ locations.
Qwant – learn more at https://www.qwant.com/?l=en
Qwant is based in France and delivers results in a choice of more than a dozen languages including English, French, and Italian. This search engine doesn’t track you or your device and promises not to log your search history.
This is a metasearch engine that primarily takes Bing search results and delivers them to the user. It does have its own indexing capabilities as well.
Browse and Search in secure privacy. Your business is your own.