Can Search Engines Protect Your Privacy?
Search engines are all the same. You enter a search phrase, wait for the search engine results page and then click on the link, and all the while, a database is recording your visit to the site, sending cookies to your browser to keep track of what you searched for and supplying results that are littered with “sponsored”, which is how the search engine in question generates revenue.
While this might be a simplistic view of exactly what takes place when using sites such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, there are ways to avoid the corporatization of web search. Among these are Ixquick, Aafter and the YAUBA internet privacy search engine. These search tools provide anonymous web searches, delivering a set of history-free search results. While the big search engines might disassociate IP addresses from search results after a certain period of time, these smaller search engines pride themselves on offering complete privacy.
Available at www.ixquick.com, this oddly-named search engine uses advanced metasearch technology and they claim that their results are more comprehensive and accurate than those of other search engines.
Additionally Ixquick offers video search and an international phone directory, but most importantly they don’t record your IP address when you search.
However it is possible for any website to collect a wide variety of information, so Ixquick provide details of what they do record – date and time of the visit, browser version and platform. These last two are particularly useful as they allow the search engine to tailor their layout for changes in popular browser use, while the date and time are recorded to help manage server load.
Searches with Ixquick are vast, and in testing they offer less duplication and more relevance than other popular search engines.
In addition, Aafter does not track your behaviour when you leave the website and keeps no record of your geographical location.
But surely “search” is a business? It is – and Aafter offer to share any advertising revenue that is generated from your searches with its users!
Get started at www.aafter.com.
Yauba Internet Privacy Search Engine
Unveiled to some fanfare in 2009, the Yauba Internet privacy search engine attracted a lot of attention by being the first major search engine operating out of India as well as signing up to a UN initiative, the United Nations Global Compact. Intending to discard with storing all user-identifiable information, Yauba does not store cookies and enables users to visit third party websites without tracking cookies.
This potentially makes Yauba Internet privacy search engine the most attractive option – except for the fact that it is hugely unreliable, with visits to www.yauba.com revealing a variety of error pages, “not found” messages and other problematic pages.
Google Encrypted Search
As you can see, internet privacy is something that many search engines are taking seriously. But if you would rather stick with the search results of Google, they provide an encrypted search service at encrypted.google.com. While this doesn’t offer the same level as anonymity as Ixquick or Aafter, it does allow you to perform searches over an SSL connection (where your browser displays a URL beginning https:// rather than https://).
“How Search Engines Rate on Privacy”: https://news.cnet.com/2100-1029_3-6202068.html
“New Search Engine Respects Your Privacy”: https://www.pandia.com/sew/1578-new-search-engine-respects-your-privacy.html
All screenshots provided by the author.