The general practices of protecting your online privacy can apply to any search engine or social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, for that matter. It’s not just a matter of one-tie fixes, but about making a new habit of good online data hygiene.
Check the website’s privacy policies, which will tell you what data they collect and how. Knowing what a site will store is key to controlling that information.
Opt-out. All of the major search engines have options for you to purge your user data from their servers. They also have options for not customizing your results, in other words, letting you out of the “search bubble.” Maybe that’s effective and maybe it isn’t, but it’s worth a shot.
Use a privacy-guarding web browser or use its privacy features. Firefox is a popular one, but any major browser has settings to let you purge private data or use incognito mode.
Join an anonymity network. Tor is the most used, but there are others out there. Anonymity networks use proxies to serve web content to you, stripped of all personalized data.
Alternative Search Engines:
DuckDuckGo is the web’s most popular privacy-advocate search engine. It’s a meta-search engine, which aggregates results pages from other engines and serves them up anonymously, without mining your user data. It’s a spiffy and clean interface too, reminiscent of the days when searches were simpler and not so cluttered.
HotBot is another step in user privacy. They have their own web crawler, Inktomi, which has actually been around since the early days of the web. HotBot takes the additional step of not only refraining from mining your data but screening its search results for risky links and potentially harmful sites. It’s also one of the few search engines with a fresh, updated blog, full of informative content about browsing safely.
SearchEncrypt is another privacy-guarding search engine. This one goes even further, encrypting your traffic both ways and purging history even on your own computer, just so the next user can’t even tell what you were up to. SerachEncrypt may be a little extreme for some users, but it’s the next best thing to being a complete ghost as far as the commercial concerns of the web go.
Hot.com is another privacy-guarding search engine that does not mine your data, but it’s for the exclusive purpose of adult-oriented web browsing. Most users will agree that this is one occasion where privacy is especially appreciated. Whether you’re targeting dating sites, escort services, sexual health advice, or just want to watch a spicy video, this site gets the irrelevant results out of the way.
StartPage is one site for people who still want quality Google results without data tracking. StartPage simply takes your query and runs it through Google, then returns the results stripped of all personal data. It’s like mailing your search query in a blank envelope.
Data You’re Denying Google:
Typical profiling metrics include your IP address, web browser and operating system platform including your device information, your ISP’s location data, and of course your query history and click-through results.
The usual use of this data is to both targeted advertising to you, and to custom tailor your search results. There’s more going on here, however, because user data is often sold to third parties or shared across a broad advertising network. The data is typically stored up to eighteen months, but there’s no accounting for third party storage as it’s passed around.
Even though you may be in the “I have nothing to hide” club, many users can agree that such an in-depth invasion of one’s personal life, however open, is just unnecessary.