Search engines are an absolutely necessary part of the internet. Imagine how hard it would be to find anything online without the help of Google.
But while Google is undoubtedly the best search engine out there, there is a clear cost we pay every time we use it.
Google records your IP address and uses tracking cookies to create a digital profile of you, your keywords, the exact time of your queries, and of course the links that you click on.
All of this information is then stored in a database that is used to create targeted ads. The personal information that it gathers is of incredible value to marketers, governments, and even criminals.
Imagine picking up your friend's phone and looking through their search history. There is a tremendous amount of personal information that can be revealed through search queries alone, and Google does exactly that, but on a global scale.
A lot of you might say that you have nothing to hide, and brush this off. But as Edward Snowden beautifully said during his 2015 AMA session on Reddit:
"Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying that you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say".
Your privacy really matters, and these two search engines share my exact sentiment:
DuckDuckGo is an alternative to Google. It has some really nice features, like what they call “bangs", which let you search sites directly from DuckDuckGo, as well as a nice, easy-to-use interface that's quite close to Google’s.
Most importantly, DuckDuckGo respects your privacy. It doesn't log data about you, so it's quite popular among users who are looking to surf the web anonymously.
The search results are not bad in my opinion; nothing compared to Google though. However, DuckDuckGo uses Amazon Cloud Services, which are located in the US, meaning that DuckDuckGo is subject to the Patriot Act.
This alone makes DuckDuckGo at its core potentially vulnerable to government interference.
Much like DuckDuckGo, StartPage is a privacy-oriented alternative to Google. But unlike DuckDuckGo, it doesn't really have any special features of its own; it's simply a search engine.
The UI is pretty basic, nothing to tweet home about. In my experience, StartPage has better search results, since it's basically Google via proxy.
In addition, StartPage is based in the Netherlands, and you can choose to only use the servers that are located in the EU, where there is no equivalent to the Patriot Act.
To be honest, nothing compares to the search quality of Google, and I would be lying if I said that I have completely turned my back on Google (I'm still waiting for that day to come).
But the question remains: am I willing to sacrifice my privacy for the sake of convenience?
The answer is a clear “No" for me. That's why I find myself using both DuckDuckGo and StartPage as much as I can, and I recommend you do too.