The mainstream search engines are a privacy nightmare. They log your search history, track the links you’re clicking on, and record a near-endless amount of data about your viewing habits.
Unfortunately, from a search-results perspective, they’re also the best. Companies like Google and Yahoo have vast budgets, allowing them to create the most sophisticated algorithms and deliver the most relevant content.
For the privacy-conscious streamer, that poses a real issue. How can you enjoy the positive aspects of the big search engines without exposing yourself to the many downsides? It’s simple—you need to use a proxy search engine. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is a Proxy Search Engine?
First up, what does proxy mean? A proxy search engine leverages the backend of the mainstream search providers whilst simultaneously keeping your identity private.
For example, if you use a proxy search engine for Google, you would see an identical list of results as you’d see if you’d performed the search directly on Google’s page (minus the personalization).
Google, however, would not know who performed the search, where you were based, what your IP address was, or any of the other things that the company tracks when you use its services.
Indeed, the only information the company would know is that the search originated from a private search engine.
So, which are the best proxy-search engines? Here are three secure and anonymous services you can try today.
(Note: Proxy search engines differ from proxy browsers.)
Startpage claims to be the world’s most private search engine. The claims are grandiose, but it has several features which back them up.
The Netherlands-based search engine is a Google proxy. It’s not some hacked-on workaround that the developers have created; Startpage pays Google for the privilege. In return, Google doesn’t use trackers and logs. That means you won’t see personalized ads, none of your personal data is stored on Google’s servers, and your search query is entirely anonymous.
You can also use Startpage’s novel “Anonymous View” to open and browse websites via a proxy; you never have to leave the safety of Startpage’s umbrella. It means the sites you visit will not be able to install cookies, track you, or know anything else about your identity. The option to access a page in Anonymous View appears alongside every search result.
A couple of other noteworthy features that cement Startpage’s reputation as a secure search engine include:
- A way to keep your search terms out of webmaster’s logs on sites you visit.
- A choice of servers in the US and EU.
Startpage supports regular text-based searches and image searches.
SearX is another anonymous search engine worth checking out.
Unlike Startpage, which only delivers results from Google, SearX can leverage results from more than 20-different search engines. The list includes big players like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex, but also several smaller, or site-specific search engines, such as Etymonline, Reddit, Wikipedia, and Mojeek.
Better yet, you can customize which search engines are used depending on the type of search you’re performing. For example, you can choose to see different providers’ results for image searches, map-based searches, music searches, scientific searches, and so on.
You can toggle the different search engines on and off by clicking on Preferences in the upper right-hand corner of the home screen.
SearX has a couple of other unique features that help to make it one of the best free proxy search engines. First, it is entirely open source. If you wanted, you could dig into the code to make sure the company’s claims about logging and tracking were true.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it’s one of the few search engines in the world that lets you run a self-hosted version. It’s a technical undertaking and requires extensive knowledge of working with Linux. But if you have the wherewithal to get it up and running, a self-hosted version of SearX is probably the most secure way to search the web that you’ll ever encounter.
Finally, SearX also provides a way to access sites through a proxy. Be aware that not all sites will be compatible.
The final proxy search engine you should consider is MetaGer. The German site has been around for more than 20 years and has built a reputation as offering one of the most anonymous search engines on the web.
Since 2016, the search engine’s code has been entirely open source. Here’s how the company’s director, Wolfgang Sander-Beuermann, described the decision to reveal its code at the time:
“MetaGer is all about protecting the privacy of its users. By offering open-source access to its source code, the online community can now verify for itself that MetaGer does not store any data about its users.”
MetaGer acts as a proxy search engine for more than 50 search engines, including Bing and Scopia. Like Google and other search engines, MetaGer provides a curated news feed. Unlike its competitors, MetaGer uses the news aggregator One News Page to provide news results.
From a privacy standpoint, MetaGer routes all traffic through a proxy and does not log any IP addresses on its servers. Furthermore, all of MetaGer’s servers are in Germany. Germany’s data protection laws are considered to be the strictest in the world.
Last, unlike Startpage and SearX, MetaGer offers Tor network access. Using the Tor version of the site is the most guaranteed way to avoid snoopers and safeguard your identity and your privacy.
Other Private Search Engines and Methods
Many other secure and anonymous search engines exist. DuckDuckGo is probably the most famous. However, DuckDuckGo does not use a proxy and does not provide results from the mainstream search engines. As such, we’d recommend using one of the three free proxy search engines we’ve looked at in this article instead.
To learn about more ways to stay safe, check out our article on the best VPN alternatives to use while streaming.