private search engines

The Best Private Search Engines for 2021

Last updated on July 7, 2021

Sometimes it feels like you can’t escape the big search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo from following you around the web and absorbing your valuable information.

These search engines make the majority of their money from collecting your data and selling it to the highest bidder. They log everything from your IP address, the terms you search for, the results you click on, and how long you spend on each page.

These companies then create a buyer’s persona out of your information, which they can sell on to companies who will then bombard you with adverts.

But, like many of us, you may wish to find the information you need on the web without coming into the firing line of relentless marketing fodder.

If this is the case, you should consider using one of the best private search engines.

Best private search engines at a glance:

  • DuckDuckGoDuckDuckGo is safe, secure, and fully customizable.
  • MetaGer: One of the most comprehensive, private meta searches on the web.
  • Qwant: No pixels, no search tracking, and a customizable, easy-to-use interface.
  • Mojeek: The original private search engine.
  • SearX: Enables you to double up as a proxy, whenever you like.

How to Choose the Best Private Search Engine

Once you start looking for the best search engine for privacy, you may notice that they are not all on par with one another. Some are nowhere near as private as they claim to be, whilst others will deliver a terrible user experience.

When looking for a private search engine, there are a few things to consider. Here are some questions to ask yourself which will help you determine which is right for you:

  • In which jurisdiction is the company?

Depending on the location of the server that hosts the search engine, your data will be subject to the rules and regulations of that country. In the United States, there is a law requiring servers to hand over data if requested by intelligence authorities. This is not so in other countries, as each one has its own laws concerning data handling. Be sure to check which jurisdiction a private search engine is under, so you can fully understand the data laws of that country before using it.

  • Does it maintain your privacy?

Many search engines do not maintain your privacy as well as they claim to. You want to make sure that your private search engine does not tie any personal searches to your IP address, does not store IP addresses, or save any user-agent strings.

  • Does it deliver accurate results?

You want to make sure that your private search engine still performs the primary function of a search engine, i.e. delivers accurate and helpful results. Some private search engines may still use your IP address to deliver geo-targeted responses, but they shouldn’t store that IP address.

  • Does it have an easy-to-use interface?

Some private search engines may be heavily encrypted and will keep your online identity safe. However, this can come at the cost of a clunky interface that is difficult to navigate or confusing to look at. Even though you want to keep your identity safe, you still want a sleek, easy-to-use search bar.

  • Does it allow for customization?

You want to make sure that your search engine allows you to set up a searching option that lets you scan and filter through content in a way that suits you. Perhaps you prefer endless scrolling, or maybe you want your pages to open in a new tab. Your private search engine should be able to accommodate that.

Our Pick of Best Search Engines for Privacy

1. DuckDuckGo – Seamless privacy and protection

Jurisdiction: USA

DuckDuckGo is the default search engine in the Tor browser, and for good reason. It’s secure, customizable, and pulls the most relevant results for your searches. Although it does save searches, these are not tied to any particular users.

We would confidently say that DuckDuckGo is one of the best metasearch engines on the list. However, it should be noted that it becomes instantly aware of your IP address before deleting it, in order to serve geo-located ads. To get around this, DuckDuckGo is best used in conjunction with a high-quality VPN, like ExpressVPN, to keep your online antics 100% anonymous.

2. MetaGer – metasearch private search engine

Jurisdiction: Germany

MetaGer combines the results of up to 50 search engines. Every search result tells you the source of that result, with decent search filters that are based around privacy, and a clear proxy service that allows you to open results anonymously.

MetaGer does store your IP address for up to 4 days, but this is simply because it limits the number of searches any one person can do, and needs a way to keep track of this. For the non-targeted advertising component of its business model, MetaGer does collect some data. It provides advertisers with truncated IP addresses and user agent details, including which browser and operating system the search query is coming from. However, none of this information can be used to identify a user. MetaGer also adds privacy by allowing you to open a web page anonymously. The search engine acts as a proxy and hides your IP address from your destination website.

3. Qwant – customizable and easy-to-use

Jurisdiction: France

Qwant is another search engine that promises to not track you or your device and does not use any pixel tracking technology. Similarly to MetaGer, it is a metasearch engine that favors results from Bing. It is also based in France, which is helpful as Europe has much stricter data protection laws.

Qwant describes its data protection laws on its website: “When you use Qwant as a search engine, we don’t put any cookie on your browser… We don’t collect and we don’t store any history or your searches. When you search, your query is instantly anonymized… Long story short, what you are doing with Qwant is part of your privacy and we don’t want to know.”  

Its affiliate websites, TripAdvisor and eBay, will be given an unfair advantage in its ranking of results.

4. Mojeek – Private search engine in its own right

Jurisdiction: United Kingdom

One thing separates Mojeek from all other private search engines, in that it does not rely on mainstream search engines for its results. It is its own private search engine in its own right, as it has its own crawler. In fact, Mojeek claimed to have indexed 2.3 billion pages itself, aiming to double that by the end of the year. This makes it the ideal private search engine for those who are wishing to avoid those companies altogether.

Mojeek has a particular privacy policy that states: “Mojeek doesn’t implement any kind of specific user tracking…By doing this, Mojeek removes any possibility of tracking or identifying any particular user. Mojeek does make one exception to this rule, if a search query is deemed related to illegal and unethical practices relating to minors…”

Mojeek doesn’t collect any user data, IP addresses, click behavior, or search behavior. The only fallback to its privacy policy is that localized searches are not as effective as others, so it depends on what you’re using this private search engine for.

5. SearX – Opensource metasearch engine

Jurisdiction: Open source (not location-based)

SearX provides a proxy option that enables you to continue to mask your identity when you click through to a website, which is a fundamental application for those who are seeking complete anonymity when searching online.

One of the unique features of SearX is that you can run your own instance, which means that you don’t have to worry about any traces of meta-data flying around online. Another excellent feature of SearX is its level of customizability. You can modify exactly what search engines SearX pulls its data from, meaning you can choose to totally avoid the search engines you don’t want to use.

One thing to bear in mind is that SearX is blocked by Google as it scrapes Google’s results. SearX still has a wealth of other search engines to scrape from, though.

How to to Enhance Your Search Engine Privacy: Use a VPN

When you use a private search engine, you can be guaranteed that it won’t keep and sell your information. However, even the best search engine for privacy does not have any control over what individual websites do. You may also want to consider some safer web browsers.

Most sites you visit will record your IP address. Even if that site has a privacy policy, most websites will still record some of your data, even before you’re able to find their privacy policy.

Therefore, a VPN is your best line of defense against having your data logged and sold. It’s not only hackers and scammers that may be looking for and using your data. It may also be government agencies and large tech corporations that use your data for surveillance and marketing purposes.

Use these VPN’s with private search engines to stay safe:

1. ExpressVPN – One of the fastest premium VPN services available today

ExpressVPN boasts military-grade encryption, a wide choice of protocols, and an automatic kill switch which all works together to keep you hidden from data harvesters.

Visit ExpressVPN

2. NordVPN – One of the strictest no-logging policies

NordVPN hides your data with a combination of 256-bit and 2048-bit encryption. It has industry-leading security features which include a Double VPN, Onion over VPN, and CyberSec and a unique ad and malware blocker.

Visit NordVPN

3. CyberGhost – One of the most secure VPNs on the market

CyberGhost has one of the most user-friendly interfaces in the VPN market, An automatic kill switch, AES-256 encryption, and DNS leak protection are built into apps for every major platform, so you’ll be safe on any device you use.

Visit Cyberghost

Google Tracking – What You Need to Know

Google, and other big search engines like Bing and Yahoo, record the following information when you’re browsing online:

  • Your IP address
  • Your location
  • Search terms
  • What device you’re using

These search engines can feed this data into powerful algorithms that can generate a vast amount of potent information on you as an individual. By feeding information like where we like to eat, what websites we visit, who we bank with, how long we spend online, where we go on holiday, these search engines can build an eerily accurate picture of who we are as individuals.

Companies like Google and Facebook justify their intense tracking by claiming that they are providing a “better experience for their customers”. This is true, but their customers are not you, their customers are third-parties like marketers and government agencies who wish to use your information to push their agenda, whether its marketing or political messaging.

These companies also have a marked lack of transparency when it comes to exactly who they are selling this information to. This means that there is nothing to stop potential employers from accessing information about your drinking habits, political views, or even sexual tendencies, which is not just creepy but a clear invasion of your privacy.

Why You Should Delete Your Google Search History

So you may be swayed that you need to use a VPN to prevent the tech giants from snooping, selling, and profiting.

However, Google still has a vast quantity of data about you. It has a particularly opaque line that claims “Sometimes we retain certain information for an extended period of time to meet specific business needs or legal requirements.”

You can still delete most of your search history. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Google’s My Activity page and in the left sidebar menu, select the Delete activity by option.
  2. In the resulting option, pick the time period you want to delete activity for.
  3. Then confirm the deletion. Pick Delete.
  4. And that’s it. You should now see a confirmation screen.

Note that you can also delete your activity from the Google homepage by going to Settings > Your data in Search, and scrolling down to the Delete your Search activity section.

If you keep using Google, it will continue to store your information. So you’ll want to turn off activity for the future. On the My Activity page, you’ll see a couple of boxes, the left of which pertains to activity tracking. Select Change setting.

In the resulting screen, be sure to uncheck both boxes. The first, if checked, allows Google to track you via Chrome and sites that use Google services. The second allows the company to save recordings of your voice and audio inputs for Google speech services. Most importantly, turn the toggle next to Web & App Activity to the off (gray) position.

If you let Google continue recording your activity for whatever reason, you can use the right-hand box to decide how long the company stores it for: 18 months, three months, or until manual deletion.


No matter what your reasons may be for using a private search engine, make sure you know exactly what it’s logging, and what its privacy and search history policies are.

Of course, also make sure you’re using a reputable VPN to make sure your data online is as safe as possible. On top of that, there are plenty of other ways that you can keep yourself safe online.

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