Features of private search engines

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In today’s digital world, everyone is searching for information, all the time. But when many of the more popular search engines work so closely with advertisers to perfectly target you with advertising, your online privacy is getting harder to protect. 

You can easily protect yourself against being tracked when you search on the web and browse results simply by using a private metasearch or search engine.

The features that you should look for in a private search provider include:

  • Web search – All search engines let your search the web and list the resulting pages. However, they may use different sources, some are independent and build their own list of websites and results, and some show results from Bing or Google for example, but the private search engines make sure your search is still done in private.  
  • Quality rating by the community  – Empowering people to help and say how relevant the results are, is a truly valuable feature. As a private search engine with a smaller user base, the feedback from the people using the service can help the search engine ensure quality results, since smaller companies can’t  match Google’s overwhelming (and privacy invading) data analysis power. 
  • Image  – Searching for images in private means you don’t have to worry about the images you look at and private search engines have various filter settings to prevent adult image searches – making it safer for your kids. 
  • Map search – Some private search engines let you look for places to visit, and plan how to get from A to B in private.
  • Video search – No private search engine has their own video service like Google’s own YouTube. You can use private search engines to search YouTube and other sources and get rid of the advertisements, and block Google from getting a detailed history of the videos you watch. 
  • Instant answers – These are services designed for specific searches to give you quick and useful results in addition to the web page results, for example, a calculator when you type in a sum, or the weather forecast when you type in a location.  

Searching for the weather forecast in private

You can check the weather forecast directly in the search engine using, DuckDuckGo and Qwant.


  • Easily search additional sources – No private search engine has the scale of Google and covers as many corners of the internet. To compensate for that, some search engines have introduced a way to easily repeat your search  on other websites. If you add an exclamation mark “!” to the search query it searches directly on the website you specify. It is the solution to a real need and is a very usable feature, although your searches are no longer private when you exit the private search engine. 

Features of private search engines and metasearch engines

DuckDuckGo Searx Qwant StartPage
Web search results Metasearch Metasearch Combined Metasearch
Quality Rating on web search results On the query + On the query +
Image search + + + -
Map search and route planning OpenStreetMap/
device dependent
OpenStreetMap links No Embedded in a snippet
Video search + + + +
Easy search on other resources !bangs - !qwick -
Search Advertisements Yahoo None Microsoft Google
Note: The data in this comparison table is based on public information published by the included search engines, with additional information from independent reviews, including as published on the respective Wikipedia pages for the search engines . The data was last checked in November 2018. Findx.com was removed because the service was closed.

Using a map service on a private search engine 

DuckDuckGo have implemented map services based on the OpenStreetMap service.

Alternative search engines with privacy 

More and more frequently, people are asking for solutions to protect and control who has access to their personal information when they are online. The rising popularity of private search engines shows that concern about digital privacy is increasing.

By searching in private, you avoid consuming information only within a filter bubble, you ensure your search history isn’t collected, and you aren’t chased by advertisements as you browse the internet. 

There is a great need for alternatives to the monopoly that Google has over the information of our digital lives, and if you want to learn more about you can see the chart and read a comparison of search engines and meta search engines.

By Brian Laursen, Former Findx employee.

Activate privacy

Activateprivacy.com is a private project.