5: Reduce tracking by Google Search or replace it for search engine privacy

Updated: May 30

For enhanced search engine privacy, consider replacing Google Search or at least limit the data Google collects

Google is by far the most dominant search engine on the market. The brand name of “Google” has penetrated the language as a synonym for the generic verb “search” as in “I will Google it” meaning “I will search for it on Google.” Certainly, its search results are impressive in its ability to match not only the current search, but influenced by the user’s past search and browsing history to yield more targeted search results.


For search engine privacy, consider replacing Google Search

Why should you consider using a different search engine?

  • By default, Google collects your detailed search and browsing data that helps it serve more relevant ads, whereas there are other search engines that do not do so and consider your privacy as paramount.

  • By default, Google saves and analyzes your searches, which helps build a profile of your interests; this can have benefits, such as tailoring the ranked results it shows you to your needs and serving ads that target your search patterns with greater accuracy, but many see the detailed collection and usage of your searches as invasive.

  • Google has also been accused of displaying search results that are biased, though Google has denied such accusations.

  • Finally, Google search results are riddled with ads. While the paid ad placements are marked as ads, they are, in our view, voluminous and “in your face” often filling up your screen ahead of the organic search result rankings.

Some will argue that they like their search and web site browsing histories to be taken into account, as that generates more relevant ads. So there is a tradeoff between privacy and convenience. But for those who value privacy first, or find the personalized ads intrusive, or are annoyed with the plethora of paid advertisements upon searches, or perhaps believe, rightly or wrongly, that searches on Google are biased, we suggest you consider alternatives to Google search. There is another more abstract principle to consider: those who say “they have nothing to hide” do not know how collected data will be misused or abused in the future by hackers, dishonest employees of the vendor, corrupt governments, or even conceivably the vendor itself.


Alternatives to Google Search


There are many fine articles that review alternatives to Google’s search engine. Three such articles are as follows:

Among the alternatives, there are large players, such as Microsoft’s Bing, or better yet, several small providers’ offerings such as DuckDuckGo.com or StartPage.com that focus sharply on privacy and do not track your searches.


There are many articles online providing instructions on how to change your default search engine. Some resources are as follows:

I chose DuckDuckGo.com on the Firefox browser


I set DuckDuckGo.com as my default search engine within the Firefox Options, but there are other fine privacy-focused search engines. While DuckDuckGo.com receives ad revenue, the ads they display are limited to those related to the immediate search terms, not past searches or browsing patterns and history; they do not collect search and browsing data to create and remember a personal profile. As an option, by installing the DuckDuckGo Essentials add-on to Firefox, in addition to the DuckDuckGo.com search engine, you get a tool that rates each site you visit based on its security and privacy profile, and blocks certain ad tracking networks. On a mobile device you can install the DuckDuckGo App. While not as advanced as Google’s search, the results are very good for the vast majority of searches.


Staying with Google Search


If you want to stay with Google Search, in light of its powerful engine and leadership, but are concerned about the privacy implications of Google storing so much information about your past search and browse history, we suggest you at least consider our prior post Reduce personal data collected and web tracking; choose and use browsers wisely about the settings Google offers to limit its data collection and personalization.

Take-away

There are many alternative search engines that compete with Google without the data collection and tracking. Some may not be as advanced as Google’s, but if privacy is paramount, they may be preferable.

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