Ask the Expert: Search Engines that Protect Your Privacy

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Q: “I just found out that Google tracks all my search terms when I use their search engine. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think a company should keep records of personal information unless the customer explicitly approves it beforehand. Do you know of any search engines that won’t track me?”

A: I guess I’m old fashioned too, because I don’t believe that companies should track their customers without their consent either. If you use Google’s search engine, you should know that Google is keeping records on every search term you look up. Additionally, when you click on a link in Google’s search results, your search term is sometimes sent to the site you are visiting, along with information that can often personally identify you, such as your computer’s IP address. And this is not just true for Google; it’s true for the other top search engines as well, including Bing, Yahoo, and Ask.

Have you ever noticed how the same ads appear on different websites that you visit? This happens because Google and other sites which track you follow you around the web using cookies they install on your computer. They use these cookies to build a profile on you based on your website preferences. They can and do sell this information to advertisers.

How do you think Google (and Facebook) make so much money? You are the product. They track which websites you visit, create a profile based on these sites (and other offline information), and then turn around and sell this information to advertisers.

In addition, your search history can reveal quite a bit about you. Do we really want huge companies to have this information to do with it what they please?

Thankfully, those of us who don’t to be tracked online now have choices when it comes to search engines. Two of the most popular anonymous search engines are DuckDuckGo and Ixquick.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo was founded in 2008, but has really taken off in the last few years. It was included as one of the Fifty Best Websites of 2011 by Time magazine. In a nutshell, DuckDuckGo does not record your personal, identifiable information, including your IP address. It uses cookies only when necessary. They do not sell or share your information with anyone else.

They also have excellent information about why you should care about your online privacy (http://donttrack.us/).

Ixquick

Ixquick is another popular anonymous search engine which was founded five years ago. On its Q&A page, it says clearly “You have a right to privacy” and “Your search data should never fall into the wrong hands.” Ixquick was awarded the first European Privacy Seal in 2008. This initiative guarantees compliance with the EU’s strict privacy laws on data security and privacy.

Ixquick is not as popular as DuckDuckGo, but is equally concerned about protecting your privacy.

Search Engines Should Not Track Us

Google’s products are free because we have implicitly agreed to turn over our online data to them in exchange for using their products. But many of us are not aware that we have made this agreement.

If we believe that our online privacy is a real concern, and that the websites we visit should not assemble and sell our data to third parties, then maybe it’s time to switch to using anonymous search engines that protect our privacy.

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Kent Lawson

Kent Lawson is the CEO & Chairman of Private Communications Corporation and creator of its flagship software PRIVATE WiFi. He combined his extensive business and technical experience to develop PRIVATE WiFi in 2010. The software is an easy-to-use Virtual Private Network (VPN) that protects your sensitive personal information whenever you’re connected to a public WiFi network. Follow Kent on Twitter: @KentLawson.