Escape from Google: 12 privacy-promoting search engines reviewed

John Leonard
We search Google and Google searches us

We search Google and Google searches us

If you can live without personalisation there are plenty of alternatives

When Google first arrived on the scene, everyone marvelled at its speed and the almost supernatural relevance of its search results. Quite simply it blew anything else out of the water. It was a case of hasta la vista Alta Vista, so long Lycos and - very nearly - be seeing you Yahoo.

To this day, Google is undoubtedly the leader in many areas of search, particularly maps (no-one else does Streetview for example). No other engine can match Google for integrations with other services and it has the easily largest search index. However, the pace of innovation in Google's pure search business seems to be slowing.

But that's not the main problem. Google is primarily an advertising company; that's where its vast pots of money come from. It's search is designed to maximise profits, not optimise results. Moreover, countless times, Google has been found guilty of manipulating search results to favour its own products or those of advertisers while downgrading links to its competitors.

Then there's the privacy issue. Everyone knows how Google got so big so fast - it's by playing fast and loose with our personal data. Google search's best-known competitors, Bing, AOL and Yahoo (now based on Google and Bing), not to mention China's Baidu and Russia's Yandex, operate on a similar model but they are all playing catchup with the leader which enjoys near-monopoly powers.

The Googles of this world argue that they use your personal data and search history to provide tailored search results and ads more likely to interest you, which may be true, but such results are skewed by definition and lead to a filter bubble where less probable and perhaps more interesting returns are excluded by default. Plus, of course, you have no control over how that data is used, and an increasing number of people are concerned about the way information from web searches is being used to profile them.

So, what's the alternative? We've been spending a bit of time with some privacy-focused search engines to find out whether they can help us kick the Google habit.

Tabs: I image, V video, N news, M maps, Mu music, T translate, Tr travel, S shopping, So social, O other.


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