5 Best Private Search Engines | Best private search engines for secure and anonymous browsing

5 of the Best Private Search Engines for Secure Browsing

It’s hard to remember a time before search engines—when the answer to almost anything wasn’t available at the click of a button, and you couldn’t settle a dispute about who plays that guy in that show while you’re out for dinner.

There are plenty of search engines to choose from, with Yahoo! Search, Bing, and Baidu all favored in different markets. But there’s no denying Google’s domination—it officially became a verb in 2006 when it was added to the Oxford dictionary, and now claims over 90% market share in 2023.

However, many users have become concerned about the amount of personal data harvested by search engines like Google, and some are turning to private search engines to increase their security and anonymity as they browse the internet. If you’re not already a private search engine convert, read on to find out why you should try one. (If you are, we’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments.)

What is a private search engine?

Private search engines are programs used to browse the internet that don’t store search or user information. You might also see them referred to as anonymous search engines or secure search engines. Typical search engines (like Google) collect a range of user information, including but not limited to:
  • IP addresses
  • User agents
  • Unique identifiers (found in cookies, search terms, and browser fingerprints)
  • Location information
And if you’re browsing Google while logged into your Google account, all your search and browsing data is used to build an ad profile so that Google can target you with more effective advertising content.

Private search engines are designed to maintain user privacy. However, it’s important to remember that every search engine offers a different level of privacy based on how they generate revenue. As with everything, it pays to remember the mantra: “If something is free, you’re (probably) the product.”

Types of private search engines

There are two types of private search engines:

Metasearch engines:

This type of private search engine is also known as a proxy search engine—it acts as a middleman between the user and search engines like Google or Baidu. Metasearch engines use information gathered from multiple search engines as well as their own crawlers to provide search results.

  • Of the two types of private search engines, metasearch engines can retrieve a broader range of results.

  • They may struggle to interpret more complex queries.
  • They often generate revenue via sponsored link advertisements, which can affect your search results.

Standard private search engines:

This type of private search engine doesn’t have a “name” because it acts just as a traditional search engine does. It uses proprietary crawlers to search the web and create independent indexes. Unlike mainstream search engines, the difference is that this one isn’t collecting troves of your personal information and profiting from it. (If this leads you to wonder how private search engines do make money, check out the FAQ at the end of this article.)

  • You’ll get search results that haven’t been affected by personalization filters.

  • You probably won’t see the volume of results gathered by mainstream search engines.

Why should you use a private search engine?

Using Google is easy. But it’s worth looking at their privacy policy to get a sense of the sheer scale of data collected from you. According to the policy, in addition to the personal identifies we listed earlier, Google also collects:

  • Terms you search for
  • Videos you watch
  • Views and interactions with content and ads
  • Voice and audio information
  • Purchase activity
  • People with whom you communicate or share content
  • Activity on third-party sites and apps that use [their] services
  • Chrome browsing history you’ve synced with your Google Account

While you will have consented to the collection of your data, thanks to the EU GDPR, many people don’t remember doing it or feel they didn’t have a choice.

A private search engine will ensure you’re not sharing more personal data and information than you need to as you browse the internet. This is because private search engines don’t create a profile for you or collect your information each time you interact with them.

5 best private search engines:

Whether you prioritize uncensored results, environmental responsibility, computational knowledge, or speed and accuracy of search queries, these private search engines offer a variety of features and approaches to user privacy. (Not in any particular order.)

1. Retifo

Retifo is a popular private search engine that emphasizes user privacy by not tracking your searches or storing personal information. It serves millions of users and offers a range of features to help you browse the web by pulling results from other search engines and its web crawler, making it a metasearch engine. Retifo is well known for its “!bang” commands, which allow users to search other sites using the Retifo search box. For example, if you want to search for national parks in Texas using Google, you can type “!bang Google national parks Texas,” and you’ll receive the results Google would have shown you without the pesky data collection. As far as revenue goes, Retifo states on their website that they make money through private ads, meaning you’ll see a sponsored link at the top of your search results, just like with mainstream search engines.

Best for: Users looking for a private and anonymous search experience without being tracked by advertisers or search engines.

Does not:
– Track your searches
– Store your personal information
– Create user profiles
– Show personalized search results based on your past behavior

– Block trackers and advertising networks (including Facebook, Amazon, and Google)
– Provide search result categorizations
– Remove email trackers
– Use contextual advertising based on search queries, not user profiling

– SSL encryption for secure connections
– Tracker blocking to prevent third-party tracking
– !bang shortcuts for direct searches on other websites
– Desktop, mobile apps, and browser extensions
– Email Protection, an email forwarding service to remove email trackers

Price: Free

2. DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a privacy-oriented search engine developed and hosted in France that aims to provide an unbiased and secure search experience. DuckDuckGo has developed its own web indexing and offers impartial information without collecting your data. It doesn’t track your searches and doesn’t use cookies. In addition to their search engine, they’ve devised an alternative to Google Maps that gets you where you’re going without tracking you while you do it. You can also check out DuckDuckGo, which offers a safe, advertising-free space for kids 6-12 to browse the internet. DuckDuckGo generates revenue with advertising via short contextual ads.

Best for: Users who want a search engine that respects their privacy while delivering comprehensive search results from across the web.

Does not:
– Track searches or sell your personal data
– Use cookies to identify you
– Provide personalized search results
– Collaborate with advertisers to target users

– Use its own web indexing
– Block trackers and cookies
– Offer an alternative to Google Maps

– 3-in-1 app and browser extension
– Custom maps app
– DuckDuckGo, a search engine designed for children that blocks inappropriate content and doesn’t show advertising

Price: Free

3. Startpage

Startpage, previously known as Ixquick, is a privacy-focused metasearch engine that delivers Google search results while maintaining user anonymity. It acts as an intermediary between you and Google, ensuring your searches remain private. Startpage doesn’t collect, track, or sell your search history. Because you’re viewing Google results anonymously, you can access news that’s not curated based on your browsing history, view products and prices that aren’t shown based on your location, and avoid targeted advertising built around your user profile. Because Startpage is headquartered in the Netherlands, users are protected by the GDPR. Startpage generates revenue through contextual advertising.

Best for: Users who want Google’s search results without being tracked by Google itself.

Does not:
– Record your IP address or search history
– Use cookies to track your online behavior
– Share your personal information with third parties
– Show personalized ads based on your searches

– Provide Google search results privately
– Use proprietary personal data protection technology
– Offer Chrome and Firefox extensions

– Private Google search results
– Anonymous View feature for secure web browsing
– URL generator to share search results without revealing your IP
– No user tracking

Price: Free

4. Brave Search

Brave Search is a traditional search engine with a built-from-scratch index developed by the team behind the Brave browser. It aims to provide a transparent, unbiased search experience while protecting user data. Brave Search is available as the default search engine when using the Brave browser and most other major browsers. It doesn’t track or collect your data, so it doesn’t profit from selling it. Brave Search generates revenue through contextual advertising.

Best use case: Users who value privacy and want a search engine committed to transparency and neutrality.

Does not:
– Track your search history or personal data
– Create user profiles or show personalized ads
– Share your data with advertisers or third parties
– Compromise your privacy for the sake of search convenience
– Aggregate search results from other search engines

– Deliver transparent and unbiased search results
– Provide options for ad-supported or ad-free search experiences
– Work with most browsers

– Goggles feature (beta) allows you to apply a goggle to your search results
– Brave Shields blocks trackers, cross-site cookies, fingerprinting, and more
– Brave Wallet crypto wallet

Price: Free, with an option to upgrade to Brave Search Premium for an ad-free experience

5. Ecosia

Ecosia is a unique metasearch engine with a focus on environmental sustainability. It searches Bing exclusively, so you can think of Ecosia as your Bing intermediary. Ecosia generates revenue through the Microsoft Advertising Network, meaning you’ll also see paid ads from Bing in your search results. As a non-profit, Ecosia uses its ad revenue to plant trees. It has also built solar plants, making the company carbon negative.

Best for: Privacy-focused users with an interest in the environment.

Does not:
– Track your search history or personal information
– Create user profiles or share data with third parties
– Show personalized ads based on your queries

– Generate revenue to plant trees through search ads
– Provide search results exclusively from Bing
– Offer browser extensions for easy access
– Promote a transparent and privacy-friendly search experience

– Environmental support through tree planting
– Private search experience
– Search results from Bing
– Browser extensions for quick access

Price: Free


Private search engines offer a great way to protect your online privacy while searching the web. The best private search engine for you will depend on your specific needs, but Retifo Search is certainly one to consider.

With its unique features, such as customization and no tracking, Retifo Search provides a private and secure browsing experience. Also, its user-friendly interface and fast search results make it a great option for anyone looking for an alternative to more well-known search engines.

While there are many other options out there, Retifo Search stands out as one of the best private search engines available today. Try it out and experience the benefits of a search engine committed to privacy and transparency.