The internet has been a cavernous, seemingly endless digital space for years now, having exponentially grown in the last decade. Think of how much the internet has exploded, and just the sheer amount of various information and software out there. Since more than half of the world is on the internet, so are millions of people with not-so-good intents. We have seen a lot of serious cybercrime events threaten everything from people’s social media accounts, even hospital patient data and, at the highest-level we have seen serious government data breaches recently.
Even still, privacy is probably the biggest reason that motivates people to up their security, change their approaches to the software they use and, sometimes even look for alternative search engines to use.
The Rise of Cybersecurity Concerns
The internet is certainly both a success, and a failure at the same time. Why is this and how is this relevant? Well, because the internet is so open (which is how it should be), but there is the issue of cybercrime. Other than cybercrime, though, people are turning to cybersecurity now, more than ever, for the simple reason that internet users don’t want their privacy to be exploited. Internet users are, more and more, downloading and using cybersecurity solutions such as;
- VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)
- Antivirus software
- Antimalware software
- Security-focused browsers
- Various ‘cleaners’
- Encryption software
- Passwords managers
Whatever the privacy concern may be, there is a cybersecurity solution in the form of an app or desktop software for it (and loads of iffy software too). All in all, the internet is so vast that it is difficult to control and secure it all.
But what does this mean for one of the dominant forces on the internet, search engines? All of this boils down to the fact that now there is a marked distrust in ‘big tech’ companies, which makes sense. After numerous privacy scandals, it is now a fact that; our online browsing data, email data, social media profiles, messaging data and more are types of communication that are not as private as we once thought. Furthermore, all of this is shared and sold to ‘third-party’ players.
Google is one of those huge corporations, like Coca-Cola, they’re everywhere and everyone has heard of this brand in some shape or form. From a privacy and online safety standpoint, it is important to objectively look at some issues with search engines, and some alternatives. As strange as this may sound to go for a Google search alternative -now that we are so used to it- you will find out why this may be a good idea. This is absolutely not to say that you shouldn’t trust Google, but rather to inform you of alternatives, especially for the privacy-conscious bunch that prefer a more boutique experience.
Issues With Google’s Search Engine
It would be safe to assume that Google search is the number one visited website globally, since the first thing people do when they access the internet is search for something, right? Far from it; Google is 27th in global monthly internet traffic, trailing far behind YouTube (1st), Facebook (2nd), Wikipedia (3rd) and several other domains. Nevertheless, Google’s force is everywhere, and the success of e.g. a digital marketing company depends on how they rank with Google (they have always been the dominant search engine, by far).
What are the problems, then? Should you be concerned about your privacy? Well, here are a some things to think about;
- We live in the online advertising age, and our computers communicate with big platforms such as Google by sending them data via which advertising companies can place their ads
- Google is a corporation that works with A.I, where ‘big data’ gathering is required, so the more data they have the better, which means your browsing habits are noted
- With the trust people put in Google, they search for everything from medical condition information to financial information. A simple Google search will not always turn up healthy information that you should trust
- Misinformation. There will be a lot of fake news, disinformation and hype that will appear in Google search results that you shouldn’t trust immediately
Alternatives to Google’s Search Engine
If you have decided to try something alternative for a change, below are five search engines that are worth their salt.
Probably the one that started it all, when it comes to privacy-oriented search engines. DuckDuckGo has been open about it’s stances against Google. DuckDuckGo does not store any of your personal information, or what you search for, and is offered as the default search engine of Brave (privacy-oriented browser).
Think of StartPage as a non-fat highly skimmed version of Google search. Also, it has a stance against tracking, cookies and metadata. StartPage is compliant with the EU’s privacy laws as well.
Yandex is the alternative to an alternative. They are based in Russia, and if you are looking for a very different search experience to that of ‘the West’, owned by Russians, then Yandex is something you can try. They also have satisfactory stances on privacy, protection and tracking.
Swisscows is one of the newer privacy-oriented players, with a very funky brand name to boot. Based in Switzerland (which somehow conjures up feelings of safety and security), the search engine touts ‘family-friendliness’ and some strict data protection policies. It strictly blocks anything that isn’t ‘family-friendly’ and does not geo-track the user.
More Pointers When Searching Online
- If you’re sticking with Google, use Google’s search operators to search in a better, more detailed way.
- Remember that nothing is 100% private online.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) at all times, to stay anonymous.
- Make sure that websites you are browsing have HTTPS enabled in the address bar.
- Always consult a professional for serious issues and advice.