“Google” has become synonymous with “finding information.” But even the mighty Google has its drawbacks — especially if you value your privacy.
The world’s most famous search site is also known for saving your search history, reading your email in Gmail and tracking what you click online.
Before you break out the torches and pitchforks, remember that Google is trying to make its services as useful as possible. The company’s goal is to find out what you want before you want it.
Tip within a Tip: Did you know that Google also tracks your physical location and dates you were there? They sure do! Wonder what they know about your travels? Click here to see a map showing your detailed location history.
Maybe you want a break from the well-meaning surveillance. What are your alternatives these days? Which search engines don’t step on your virtual heels?
Here are three ways to search the internet that you may find refreshing.
Give DuckDuckGo a try
This search engine is unusual in many ways. First, it wasn’t developed in California, but in suburban Pennsylvania. Second, DuckDuckGo has a mission to keep users’ information private and to prevent personalized search results.
So what’s wrong with personalized search results? Don’t you want your phone or computer to cater to your interests? The creators of DuckDuckGo assert that this kind of technology creates a “filter bubble.” Google specializes in sending you only the content that the company thinks you want, not everything available.
There’s more to DuckDuckGo than just not being Google. The search engine includes nifty calculators and other tricks you’ve come to expect, and you can customize its interface with search shortcuts and an Instant Answers feature.
You might be surprised by the quality of Instant Answers, which easily rivals Google’s Knowledge Graph. You can also make DuckDuckGo an extension of your browser and activate more privacy settings to keep your search history as protected as possible.
Ixquick truly delivers
Ixquick calls itself the world’s most private search site. That may sound a little grand, but they’ve earned their stripes. Ixquick doesn’t record your IP address, browser information or search history.
The real magic of Ixquick is its “search by proxy” feature. This means that websites have no idea what IP address you’re using. As a customer browsing their pages, you are basically invisible. This feature does have the potential to slow down your searches, but that will be a small price to pay for people who give their privacy top priority.
Here’s an example: Suppose you use Ixquick to search for a term like “Komando.” Your search results will look similar to Google’s with a list of websites it has found that match your search. But each result has three options: Just click the regular link, and you’ll visit the page as you normally would, meaning the website can see you.
Or you can choose “Highlight” to see the site’s most basic information. This way, you’re not visiting the site, just seeing what it’s about. Finally, you can pick “Proxy,” which means you will remain anonymous. Those sites will only see Ixquick’s IP address, not yours.
Use the Tor Browser
If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated, you might consider Tor. This name started as an acronym for “The Onion Router,” and it’s very popular among computer-savvy circles.
The Tor Project describes itself as an “anonymity network,” which means that privacy is its primary goal. The company’s logo has an onion, which is more than just a cute cartoon. Tor uses sophisticated encryption software that behaves like the layers of an onion, making it virtually impossible for someone to track your movements online. Tor bounces your communications through a global network, a real headache for anyone trying to find your physical location.
You may have heard of Tor because this same technology is used to access the Dark Web. Click here to learn more about the Dark Web.
That may sound creepy, and it’s true that Tor has been used for illegal activity online, but the software itself is perfectly legal and shouldn’t pose any problems. Remember, it’s not the tool that causes problems, but how you use it.
Before you rush to the Tor website and download the free software, keep in mind that Tor may slow down your searches, and it may also change your web browser’s settings.
How else can you maintain your privacy in this era of rampant data breaches? Be sure to listen to or download my podcasts, or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.