As search engines continue to grow, internet users are becoming increasingly aware of just how much information can be collected in regards to their search queries. Internet privacy has become a genuine concern, and more and more users are looking for search engines that do not store user data.
There is a common saying in the IT world that ‘Data is money.’ Data is widely known to be one of a business’s most important assets. With search engines, more data means better search results, which equals more users and more revenue.
With this in mind, many search engines have been making it a priority to save search history to provide targeted ads and search suggestions. This is why search engine privacy has become such a hot topic in recent years.
It is now possible for search engines to create an accurate persona based on search history. This is a valuable tool, but it also means search engines know a lot more about you than they should, and search engines can now sell this data to marketers.
Have you ever searched for something online, such as a new Toaster, then over the next few weeks, as you browse the web, ads for Toasters keep popping up? This happens because the search engines track what you are searching for and craft ads in response to your persona.
If the search engine has determined that you are in the market for a new toaster, then ads across the web will be displayed accordingly.
This can be a bit creepy because we do not know what else they are doing with this data and who they are sharing it with.
So how are they tracking us across the internet?
Enter search cookies.
Most websites will create what is known as a ‘cookie’ in your browser. This is a small piece of data that is dropped in your browser that contains information about you. Tracking cookies like this can collect quite a bit of information about you, the websites you visit, the pages looked at, the time spent on each page, the purchases made. It can even collect your IP address and geographic location.
There has been growing awareness in recent years about tracking cookies. Many people have become concerned about privacy and what might be happening to the information collected about them.
With this greater awareness and concern, the search engines and the websites they search have changed how people search to accommodate privacy concerns. They do this by removing or reducing the tracking cookies that are dropped in your browser when you use their search engine, visit a website through them, or not passing information about you on to other websites.
However, not all search engines support this, so which search engine should you be using?
The best search engine for privacy in 2022
DuckDuckGo has been designed with privacy at its core. While search engines like Google often sell information about you to third parties, DuckDuckGo only allows users to search anonymously. Other search engines also allow advertisers to place their adverts around search results, but DuckDuckGo does not. This means you can safely search without fear of your data being collected and sold to third parties.
There are times when DuckDuckGo may not give you the most accurate search results, especially if you are searching for localized content. So sometimes, you may need to revert to using the more popular search engines to get the results you need.
Even so, you can enable privacy mode, also called Incognito, in your browser to anonymize your web browsing.
Chrome Incognito Mode
To enable Incognito mode in Google Chrome, use CONTROL+SHIFT+N, or you can select New Private Window from the Chrome menu:
FireFox Incognito Mode
To enable Incognito mode in Firefox, use CONTROL+SHIFT+P, or you can select New Private Window from the Firefox menu:
I recommend switching to DuckDuckGo as your primary search engine. It has search and privacy built into one search engine. Changing search engines may seem like a hassle, but it is easy to do.
You can set DuckDuckGo as your default search engine in your browser’s search settings.