November 29, 2021

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Which Private Search Engine Should You Use?

6 min read

Without search engines, exploring billions of web resources is an impossible mission. While Google manages to do it in the best way, some alternatives focus on providing search results without tracking your data.

And among some popular private search engines out there, DuckDuckGo and Startpage seem to be the best contenders. But what should you use? Let’s compare the privacy-friendly search engines by considering some of the important factors that you should look for when choosing your default search engine.

Privacy Policy

To ensure that your data is handled properly, the service needs a good privacy policy. In other words, the privacy policy should convey the information about how and what data they collect or what they do not. Both DuckDuckGo and Startpage offer detailed privacy policies.

DuckDuckGo does not collect your IP address but logs the search queries without personally identifying you. No information is tied to you for the search query terms that you look for with them. The search terms are mostly used to improve their search results or track trends while keeping you anonymous.

For Startpage, they do not collect anything, not even the search queries, unlike DuckDuckGo. Technically, Startpage gets an edge here.

It is worth noting that none of them collect anything that reveals your identity or your location. You can explore the privacy policy for DuckDuckGo and Startpage to know more.

Advertisements

ddg-advertisement-1

Advertisements are necessary to keep the lights on. You will notice advertisements on both the search engines.

Fortunately, they let you disable the ads if you want to. Startpage relies on Google’s Ad network to display any advertisements related to what you search for.

And DuckDuckGo utilizes Microsoft’s Ad network to show up advertisements on the search results page. None of the ads are based on your personal search activity.

startpage-ads

The advertisements displayed are based on what you search for, not your past activity. In some cases, you may notice more advertisements listed on Startpage compared to DuckDuckGo. At the time of writing this, DuckDuckGo seems to display fewer ads.

Country of Jurisdiction

While they do not collect any search data that can be traced back to you, the country where they operate may give them some added benefits when considering privacy laws.

Startpage is based out of the Netherlands, which comes under the scrutiny of EU laws. And DuckDuckGo is US-based.

Generally, European privacy laws are focused more on providing users with control of their data, like they do with GDPR compliance. They constantly introduce measures to keep the big companies in check with the data collection practices. For instance, if a company does not have strong data protection measures, it may not continue business in the EU or be liable to pay a hefty fine.

So, even if there is a wild possibility of Startpage collecting any form of data, the European privacy laws help give users control of it and hold the company accountable.

But when it comes to the United States, even if DuckDuckGo starts collecting any form of data, the US privacy laws may not help users take control of their data and give any immediate power to them to hold the company accountable.

While this is highly speculative, it is just something that you should know and a factor that could influence your personal decision to keep your privacy-conscious mind at peace.

Customizability

Not every user wants to customize the experience when using a search engine, but for those whose who do, DuckDuckGo proves to be the better option.

duckduckgo-appearance

Startpage offers most of the essential options, including region selection, theme, and search results per page.

startpage-appearance

In comparison, DuckDuckGo provides a few more options that include infinite scroll, map rendering, and several added appearance tweaks.

Search Result Quality

Startpage utilizes Google’s search index by making anonymous requests. So the search results are better right off the bat.

startpage-homepage

DuckDuckGo relies on Microsoft’s Bing and some indexing partners to provide you with search results. While it is comparable to Google’s, it can be different for a few specific queries.

duckduckgo-homepage

Note that the local search result quality may not be comparable to Google for both of them. For instance, they understandably do not have all the location-specific features that Google offers to help you find a place or business quickly.

Related: Alternative Search Engines That Find What Google Can’t

Search Features

When you search for something on DuckDuckGo, if it is a timely topic of interest covered by news outlets, you will find recent news highlighted in the search results. This makes it convenient and accessible to catch up with news related to your query.

duckduckgo-news

While Startpage offers you a separate news section, it is not automatically displayed in the search results. They could introduce it soon, but it is not available at present.

startpage-news

Similarly, DuckDuckGo offers the functionality of “Bang” shortcuts; these let you search using any supported sites and navigate to your favorite websites quickly without clicking on the search results.

Suppose you want to look for a product on Amazon; type in “!a” in the search field along with a product name, like:

!a galaxy s21

amazon-ddg

This should directly take you to Amazon.com and list Samsung’s S21 devices available to purchase.

amazon-search-ddg

Some more bangs include:

  • !drive: to access Google Drive.
  • !enfr: to translate something from English to French using Google translate.
  • !brown: to access Brown University’s library.

You can check out the full list of bangs (shortcuts) on their official webpage.

Thousands of sites are accessible using this kind of shortcut. So, if you want to filter your search results from a single site and look for it, this feature might come in handy.

You do not have anything like that with Startpage. So, if you are a keyboard shortcut power user, you may prefer to use DuckDuckGo for the sake of those shortcuts.

DuckDuckGo offers some extra functionalities that do not influence your search experience but could prove useful.

duckduckgo-extra

The DuckDuckGo browser extension is one such offering to block trackers on websites you visit.

You can choose to use any other chrome privacy extensions available. But DuckDuckGo’s extension is a good addition that helps you easily understand the trackers blocked and informs about any bad privacy policy practices.

You can also find a DuckDuckGo browser to get a secure browsing experience while utilizing the search engine by default.

They further offer an email tracking protection service, which is in the testing phase when writing this.

The extra offerings may not be a deal-breaker, but if you want to stick to a single service for various online tools, DuckDuckGo can be a serious consideration.

Startpage does not offer any additional services or tools, but it is nonetheless one of the best Google search alternatives that you can find.

Technically, choosing either DuckDuckGo or Startpage will result in a private search experience.

If you want more customization options, integrated services, and additional offerings, DuckDuckGo looks to be an easy pick to go with. If you want the usefulness of Google search results while still keeping search private, Startpage is a no-brainer.

Overall, the user experience, theme availability, features, and anything unique to a search engine comes down to your personal preference. Choose the one that helps you find web resources as efficiently as possible.


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