Why You Should Drop Google and Start Using Private Search Engines
In order to protect France from Google and ultimately, U.S. surveillance, the French National Assembly announced late last year that they would switch from Google to Qwant, a French privacy-focused search engine. The encrypted tool has since been the default search engine the French government uses and recommends.
Florian Bachelier, a member of France’s cybersecurity task-force, urged members of his party to re-examine the issue of privacy and digital security, and shed the obsolete belief that this is ‘an issue only for geeks.’ The party and the government had to set an example – and so they did.
Amping up their data security, the French also fined Alphabet in January 2019 for an online privacy breach that violates the EU privacy laws. Google was fined a total of €50 million, or US$57 million, the highest levy ever on a U.S. tech giant.
What is Qwant?
The average internet user might not have heard of Google alternatives like Naver or Baidu, let alone a new family of search engines specifically dedicated to privacy.
In comes Qwant, an encrypted search engine that works like Google but keeps zero logs. It also promises not to track users. The best feature? Their vow of an unfiltered result, meaning that results flagged as inappropriate or copyrighted by Google will appear in Qwant.
Users all around the world are loving Qwant. It has been gaining significant traction around the world over the last year. Now, chalking up a hefty 21 million users across 30 countries per month, the search engine has grown 70% in searches in 2018 alone.
The digital world is evolving at a speed that laws cannot keep up with, while this entails less legal restrictions (sometimes), the flipside is that user data is under heavy exploitation without proper regulation. Beyond high-level national security concerns, the true battlefield is in the consumer market where ISP, malware, and search engines relentlessly monetize on users’ data points. Out here on the internet, it’s every man for themselves, and ground-breaking tools like Qwant is your best armor.
Google feeds on your user data
Sure, Google might have the best search algorithm but is it worth your privacy? Can you afford the risk of exposure when it comes to questionable and embarrassing searches?
As the world’s most popular search engine, Google probably knows more about you than your closest pals. From the basics such as your metadata – which includes your maiden name, surname, places of residence and more, to your browsing history, private email communications, and search queries, Google knows it all.
Beyond ads, which feeds you ads from paying advertisers based on your internet activity, Google Analytics (GA) is equally invasive. GA provides insights to companies or even individuals looking to identify visitors on their website drawing data from these sources: the HTTP request of the user, browser/system information, and first-party cookies. Apart from basic demographic information, it also tells the GA user behind the control panel how much time is spent on each page, where you clicked, and where you stand in their sales funnel.
Google is so embedded in the internet infrastructure that it’s hard almost impossible to completely escape its all-engulfing web. The least you could do is protect your most sensitive look-ups from them lest they backfire some day.
Advantages of using encrypted search engines
Still unconvinced? Here are the benefits of using an encrypted search engine:
- No ads based on your profile
The advertisements you see on an encrypted search engine are not based on your previous browsing history or your ‘interest profile’ in other words, but simply on your current search term. So if you look up ‘cat foods’, advertisers’ relevant product might show up.
- No logs for complete privacy
Your search history is not logged by the engine’s server. You can look up anything in the peace of mind knowing that you have full control over your searches.
- A truthful reflection of opinions and
Without an ‘interest profile’ based on your previous searches and preferences, Qwant shows you the unfiltered reality of a complex world. It presents you with results that are closest to true neutrality. You might run into something that you don’t like but hey, it is what it is!
- Dissociated IP address for anonymity
Your requests are anonymized by being dissociated from the IP address used so your queries cannot be traced back to you no matter what, which adds a layer of anonymity and privacy to your searches.