To follow up on the post I made a few days ago, here are a couple of alternative search engines for those who don’t want to go through the hassle of installing extra software.
DuckDuckGo is a partially Free search engine that doesn’t store IP addresses or user agent strings, or use tracking cookies that could be used to connect searches with individual users. The site protects users from what they call “search leakage,” that is to say search terms being transmitted to other sites via the URL of the search result page. They also have an SSL-encrypted version of the site. They do filter search results, though, by banning “those useless sites with just ads.”
Ixquick is not a search engine as such, but a metasearch engine that uses “multiple popular search engines and Internet databases” (which are not specified) transparently. They don’t store IP addresses or user agent strings, or use tracking cookies. Search leakage is avoided by using the POST-method instead of the more usual GET-method in requests to other sites. SSL-encryption is provided, plus they also run their own proxy server for anonymous browsing. The Ixquick-company’s rationale for not storing sensitive data about searches is worth quoting:
“In 2005, Ixquick’s management undertook an audit to identify the company’s liabilities. One shocking finding was that we had collected a huge amount of privacy-sensitive information on our users. Like other search engines, we had stored things like people’s search terms, the times and dates of their visits, what links they had chosen to click on, their IP addresses, and their user ID cookies. The technical reasons for collecting the data were simple, and unfortunately widespread in today’s IT environment: “It doesn’t cost much, it’s very easy to do, and the data may come in handy in the future”.
As we looked at that mountain of data, however, it began to look like more of a privacy liability than a business asset. We had never sold the information or used it commercially. Since Ixquick is an independent company focused solely on search, we were not interested in combining user data with other services we offer. In sum, we had a database full of user details we neither needed nor wanted. We asked ourselves why we were storing all that privacy-sensitive information, and we realized there was no good reason for it.
That realization took the company in a bold new direction, and from that point forward we made protecting our user’s privacy our number one priority. In June 2006, we purged our database and retroactively deleted all IP addresses and other stored search data. We began deleting all new IP addresses within 48 hours. And starting in January 2009, we stopped recording IP addresses at all.”
So there do seem to exist real alternatives for those who are fed up with Google’s habit of spying on its users. Of course, these services being run by private companies using proprietary software, you’ll just have to take their word for not storing data.