This is a guest post by Kostas Chiotis.
Online privacy is more important than ever before to most internet users. From news about the government’s tracking of internet traffic to Facebook’s controversial Graph Search feature, personal privacy is a hot topic. To the average internet users, nothing threatens privacy more than the big search engines do. These companies integrate themselves into your online activity and keep track of everything you see and do.
How Search Engines Track You
There are two primary ways that the search engines track you – by cookies or through your account with the search engine.
Cookies are stored on your computer. They allow the search engine to specifically identify your device. This allows them to track your activity on their site and use it to customize your search results.
Today, most major search engines like Google and Yahoo track your browsing history while you’re logged into their services. This is as simple as being logged into Gmail or Yahoo’s mail service. With this information, the search engines can save your details and internet activity from one device to another.
If you’re looking for a way to search Google without having to worry about your privacy, Startpage may be the answer. Startpage allows you to use their website as a proxy server – you enter your search on their website and they peruse Google for you. They return the results on their website and Google only sees requests coming from them – not you. This is great for fans of Google, or people who don’t like the results of Bing or other services.
In the search engine world, social searching is becoming increasingly popular. SocialSu allows its users to submit pages that they find highly informative and helpful. As people add more and more sites, SocialSu’s database continues to expand. Searchers also help improve results by ranking the pages they visit. This ensures only the top-quality sites are ranked highly. Rather than the way to traditional search engines index and rank sites using algorithms, SocialSu uses the human mind.
DuckDuckGo prides itself on being a privacy-conscious search engine. The service doesn’t store any tracking information on your computer and keeps no record of your searching history. In fact, they don’t even store search record on their end - your IP address and any other identifying information is instantaneously deleted from their system.
At first glance, Ixquick looks a lot like Startpage. That’s because they’re owned by the same company. They even work in similar ways. The main different between the two websites are their search results. While Startpage runs your query through Google, Ixquick gathers results from a variety of different websites and resources. Ixquick is a great option for users who prefer other search engines like Bing or Yahoo over Google.
If you’re concerned about your online privacy, watch out for the search engines. Their business plans are based on knowing what you’re interested in so that they can better market to your wants and needs. To do this, they track a lot of personal information about you. If you want to avoid these violations of your privacy, take a look at a few of the privacy-friendly search engines listed above. Give them a try, and enjoy browsing the web with peace of mind.
Image courtesy of Akshayhallur (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons