The world of privacy is endless. You can do this and use that. However one of the key things when it comes to information privacy and security is getting started. And because of that, i’d love to suggest an easy but good point to get started: choosing an alternate search engine.

Many of our online activities are currently tracked through all sorts of major companies. I propably do not need to tell you that, since from my experience most people are aware that their online histories are being recorded and used for advertisement - yet few actually change their behaviours or the tools they use. This also applies to search engines.

But why are people not using different search engines? My peers responded like this:

  1. “Don’t those alternative search engines deliver different results that Google? I mean i would rather sacrifice my privacy than not finding what i am looking for in a fast way.”
  2. “Who ensures me that those companies don’t track me, anyways? Would it not be just switching to a different criminal?1

Issue 1:

For some search engines, like DuckDuckGo, that’s entirely true. I get it. But there are solutions for this. Alternative search engines like searx or StartPage already utilize the strategy of a “meta search engine” which means that these project aggregate (and sometimes enrich) popular search engines and display their results. In the case of searx the possibilities are big, while StartPage relies on connecting to Google.

This means, StartPage actually delivers you the results you would get when entering the same search into the Google Search mask.

Issue 2:

This question can almost never be answered fully. In theory, a malicious attacker could even attack a search engine that you run on your own. To put it really bluntly:

You basically cannot trust anyone, because even your own system could have been infected.

That’s why it’s critically important to obtain the ability to judge the service providers you use, to understand wether you should trust them or not, and most important of all: which level of risk is acceptable to you. I myself decided that i can trust StartPage with my search results, either private or work-related. This article is not intended to pull you towards StartPage, but to show you there are alternatives to Google, which are really really good to work with.

Why did we create Startpage.com? As kids, we’re all taught not to touch stuff that doesn’t belong to us. It’s a good guideline. So why are online companies harvesting our personal data without our consent? They shouldn’t. That’s why we’re developing online tools that help you stay in control of your personal information. Search is done. Expect other private versions of common digital services soon. Why? Because it’s our belief that personal data should be your data, not Big Data. Period.

Please approach StartPage yourself. Try to judge wether it is a good fit for you or not. You can read more about their vision on their website.


Footnotes:

  1. Rough translation of a german saying.