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Wednesday 1 April 2020

The Solution to Search Engines Privacy Concerns

The Internet is something humans cannot do without as it affects our daily life. The Internet pretty much holds the key to information needed by not only researchers and writers, but everyone in society. Apart from this, the internet has moved human activities from the traditional way of doing things to a modernized fashion which is usually more convenient and efficient.

A perfect example would be the evolution of e-commerce, online bookings, and reservations, social media, news, etc. Most of the businesses owe their successes to the internet and its portal which helps people them – search engines.

Are Search Engines Really Free to Use?

We have become heavily dependent on search engines but it is pertinent to note how much data is being handled by the number one stakeholder in the search engine niche – Google Search Engine. Google has a total of about 7 billion users from all its 7 different platforms, averaging at about 1 million users per platform. Google handles about 15 exabytes of data – somewhere equivalent to the capacity of about 30 million PCs. If this amount of data is handled by Google alone, imagine the amount handled by search engines in total when the likes of Microsoft’s Yahoo Search, Window’s Bing and Baidu are added together. That is a whole lot of data.

The use of search engines might seem free to everyone but a lot of people are beginning to see that the use of these services comes at a cost – our data and privacy. That is why they take measures to remain anonymous on the internet by getting a VPN for Safari, Opera or Chrome – depending on the browser they use. The use of these search engines typically grants them access to data of our devices, search queries, preferences. It is easy for them to learn about our online habits and sell them off to third parties like ad agencies who utilize the data for marketing purposes.

The question of whether or not search engines have such permissions to obtain and resell user’s data then comes up for debate. Search engines have usually had these stated in their terms and conditions but since people hardly read this, it is, therefore, important to note that we have been granting these websites access to obtain and use our data in any way they deem fit. In comparison with earlier agreements, search engines have now included sections that notify users how they can limit how much of their data is obtained.

The Advantages of Private Search Engines

The real challenge doesn’t rest on the fact that data is obtained anyhow but on the fact that data security is never 100% especially when it is digital. To prevent users from feeling insecure while using the internet, a couple of companies thought to solve these privacy issues and came up with different private search engines that offer different advantages.

Some of these are:

  • Without cookies being saved and your search queries being recorded, the ads being served will feel less intrusive. The results of search queries also delivered would not be influenced by the results of past browsing history.
  • Private search engines give users the assurance that they aren’t monitored in any way through their search terms. Another upside to this is the fact that users have the confidence that their data cannot get breached or stolen since they aren’t even stored.
  • Unlike incognito mode where user activity still gets disclosed to the user’s ISP, websites visited or access point from school or employer, private search engines encrypt search queries, making it difficult for the aforementioned entities to be able to view your search history. 
  • Search queries and activities are not linked to an email account, let alone any account or service at all – making it difficult to predict users’ preferences and habits from the use of other services.

The aforementioned advantages and more can be gotten through the use of private search engines like DuckDuckGo, Swisscows, Searx.me, Disconnect Search, MetaGer, Qwant, Yase, etc.

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