Internet user tracking is a sensitive issue nowadays. More and more sites and apps store info related to their user’s built profiles and try to monetize them. We are overwhelmed by targeted ads, suggested posts, and other profile related messages. The online activity that probably reveals the most info about you is searching. Learn about search engine tracking, search leakage, and private search engines. They are alternative search engines to Google and Bing.
How can a search engine track you?
When you perform a search using a search tool or engine, you share important info (like your IP address and the User-Agent – information that may identify you directly) with the search engine you are using.
The collected info is usually used for ad targeting and other types of user profiling, but it may also be used to track your online activities.
Search engine profiles can include information about your:
- Age, sex, location, address.
- Salary, last purchases, bank name.
- Facebook profile, Twitter account, email account, social media tags.
- Political tendencies, beliefs, medical conditions.
How to protect your online search privacy
If you are stuck using one IP address the whole time you use the internet, and that data is found, someone could view all of your search records leaving you very embarrassed or making you a victim of identity theft. Here are some suggestions on how to protect your online privacy while using a search engine.
1. One key point to protecting yourself is to never enter any personal data into a search engine.
Sometimes, we may want to see what happens when we enter our name in a search, but your name will be linked to anything else you have searched for that IP. It wouldn’t be the smartest decision to search for your social security number or credit card numbers online.
2. Protecting your IP address is probably the easiest way to start defending yourself from online attacks.
There are plenty of programs that can help you do this. Tor is one such tool that will switch your IP, making it impossible to track the location you are in. This is especially important for internet users that have to surf on a static IP address.
3. Searching from different locations is another way you can protect your search data from appearing on one IP address.
No two places are hit with the same IP address. If you work on a network of computers, like in an office behind a firewall, you won’t have to worry about your identity being as easily distinguished as others. For users on a broadband connection, your modem will assign an IP address every time it is rebooted. Using a new IP address with this type of connection is simple as it only requires you to turn off the modem, and restart it to create a new IP address for all your searching needs.
4. You should block your cookies while searching or delete them after you close your browser.
Searches can also be tracked by cookies. While it would be best to turn off cookies completely, many websites require them for access. You should take care of your online search privacy by wiping cookies from your browser as you close it.
5. Avoid using search engines from your internet provider, or on websites you are logged into.
While they provide convenient ways to search for data on the internet, it is easily tracked and stored in a centrally accessible place.
6. Use a private search engine with no search leakage.
What is search leakage?
Moreover, the search terms (or search queries) are sent over to the site you clicked on. Thus, when you search, you are sharing the search info not only with your search engine but also with all the websites that you are visiting. That is called search leakage.
What are private search engines?
Private search engines are those search sites that:
- Protect you from search leakage.
- Don’t store your personal information (like the IP address).
- Do not store your search history.
- Don’t track you in any other way (no tracking your steps, no tracking cookies).
By using such a search engine, your online identity is protected, and you may search for anything you want without the fear to be tracked.
Private search engines options
Yes, you have options. Several search engines claim that they do not store any info regarding your searches or related to your identity. However, it is hard to verify those claims, so use them at your own risk.
DuckDuckGo is the preferred search engine by many users concerned about their privacy and anonymity. It serves more than 10 Million searches a day. DuckDuckGo distinguishes itself from other search engines by not profiling its users and by showing all users the same search results for a given search term.
DuckDuckGo’s privacy page is self-explanatory: DuckDuckGo does not collect or share personal information. Plus, it prevents search leakage by default.
DuckDuckGo shows ads that are not related to user profiles, and they can be disabled.
Ixquick/Startpage prevents the search leakage of your search terms to third parties by using the so-called POST method by default instead of the GET method, which is used by many other search providers.
A significant feature of Startpage is that it offers to browse through a proxy server to help protect you from websites tracking your IP address.
Oscobo is an anonymous search engine that provides secure search as it allows no tracking of info related to its users. It also offers a Chrome extension for doing searches.
We DO NOT store ANY search data on our users:
you use our site.
NOT when you leave.
NOT when you type words in the search box.
NOT when you come back.
No cookies, No tracking, No IP, nuttin…., zip…, nada….
Do you use private search engines? What is your favorite?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.