Protect Your Privacy When Searching Google

 Posted by on January 20, 2012  Tips
Jan 202012
 

Google has become synonymous with web searches – nobody talks about Yahooing or Binging, just Googling. However, many people have increasing security and privacy concerns about using Google.

When you search Google and click on a link, your search terms are stored by Google and also sent to the site you clicked on e.g. if you search for something private, you are sharing that private search not only with Google, but also with all the sites that you click on from the search results.

Last year I reviewed DuckDuckGo, an excellent search engine which redirects links to better protect your privacy, as well as providing great features like integrated Web Of Trust safety ratings, a scrolling search results page and zero-click instant answers.

However, DuckDuckGo uses its own search engine – if you want to keep the Google search results you are used to, but want increased privacy and security, Startpage could be the answer. It’s a search engine that acts as a middle man between you and Google. You still get Google’s search results but Google don’t get your details – and Startpage don’t store them:

When you search with Startpage, we remove all identifying information from your query and submit it anonymously to Google ourselves. We get the results and return them to you in total privacy. Your IP address is never recorded, your visit is not logged, and no tracking cookies are placed on your browser. Our outstanding privacy policy and thoughtful engineering give you great search results in total anonymity”.

Startpage Features

  • Your IP address (that could be used to identify you) is not recorded
  • No record is made of your web searches and no identifying or tracking cookies are used
  • By default, Startpage uses SSL encryption to prevent eavesdropping by hackers (or Internet Service Providers who may be legally required to store personal information on you)

Tip: to enforce SSL on all supported websites (not just on searches) see my article here.

  • Free proxy surfing available – see ‘other features’ below
  • Privacy promises made by Startpage are third-party certified (Certified Secure and European Privacy Seal certified)

Startpage

Other Features

The free proxy surfing feature is of particular interest as it offers complete privacy and anonymity – see here for more details. To use it, just click ‘View by Ixquick Proxy’ beneath any search result to be invisible to that website (but note that some features may be unavailable as javascript is disabled).

Having compared it to other anonymous proxies like the Tor network, it seems to me a lot quicker although your mileage may vary depending on location/network. Firefox users can install the official Startpage Search Engine add-on here to add Startpage to your Firefox ‘search’ box.

Traditional ‘Google’ features of searching by Web, Images or Videos are available in the top left of the Startpage search window. A particularly nice touch is that you can quickly filter a search by date (up to the past year) on the left of the results – a lot quicker than having to use the Advanced Search filter in Google.

The ‘Settings’ option lets you choose from a variety of settings including font size, family friendly results, open search result in a new window etc – your preferred settings can be saved via a cookie or you can generate a URL to use as a homepage or favorite/bookmark (more useful if you regularly clear cookies).

Conclusion

The Startpage interface is clean and offers quicker date filtering than Google with a host of configurable filters and options. It better protects your privacy and even includes a surprisingly quick anonymous proxy server – good enough for me to recommend it on that basis alone. Compared to the relative complexity of Tor it’s a no brainer.

The best part of Startpage of course is that it does use Google’s own search engine so results should be just as good as searching on Google itself, but without the privacy concerns.

Startpage is available here.