| Special to USA TODAY November 2020
Between Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, and all the rest, the tech giant knows a ton about you. Let’s not forget about YouTube, the second-largest search site behind Google.
I recently showed you how you could take control of what appears when you search for yourself. Once you find what’s publicly available about you, take steps to delete anything that doesn’t sit well with you, from images of your home to personal photos. Here’s my guide to doing an exhaustive search:
All this tracking and information gathering might have you looking for solid alternatives to Google. If you’re ready to make a change, try a few out and see what you like.
StartPage calls itself “the world’s most private search engine.” The Netherlands-based company recognizes that when it comes to search, it’s hard to beat Google. That’s why they use the power of Google without passing along user tracking.
StartPage pays Google for the use of its search algorithm but strips out the tracking and advertising that usually comes along with it. You get a Google-like experience, along with the promise that your data will never be stored, tracked, or sold.
Test it out at startpage.com. You can also set StartPage as your browser’s default search engine.
NOT JUST SEARCH: Want to ditch Google Chrome and Gmail, too? Here are some great alternative browsers, email services, maps apps and more.
Ecosia takes an entirely different approach. It’s a traditional search engine, ads and all, but the money raised is used to make the world a greener place. When you search on Ecosia, you’re helping to plant trees all around the world.
A nice bonus if you’re privacy-conscious: Ecosia doesn’t sell your data, searches are encrypted, and search data is anonymized within a week. They do collect “a small amount of data” by default, but you can opt-out.
Search on ecostia.org or you can add an extension to your computer or mobile browser.
While Google uses an algorithm to sort through billions of webpages, Dogpile instead fetches results from the major search engines. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and the rest have their ways of sorting through results, and Dogpile analyzes them all to help you find what you’re seeking.
Try it out at dogpile.com. Type in what you want to search and hit “Go Fetch!”
This search site is the likely most well-known privacy-focused one of the bunch. DuckDuckGo doesn’t track users, so it’s not clear exactly how many people use it. However, the CEO estimates about 25 million users.
Why does it stand out? DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you the way Google does, it doesn’t allow targeted advertising, research results are not based on your search history, and you’ll see fewer ads based on your search.
It’s easy to use and install, too, with an extension that plugs in with all the major browsers. You can also search at duckduckgo.com.
If you have little ones at home, consider Kiddle. It’s not affiliated with Google, but Google Safe Search powers it.
The visual search engine promises a safe web environment for kids, with big thumbnail images and bigger text for easy reading. The first few results of any given search are pages specifically written for children and approved by Kiddle editors. The next few results are safe but may not be explicitly written for little ones.
Kiddle has some fun extras like a 700,000 article encyclopedia with searchable topics ranging from the sciences to the arts.
The search engine doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information, and its logs are deleted every 24 hours. There are ads, though.
Try it out at kiddle.co.
6. Wolfram Alpha
Think of Wolfram Alpha as a genius in your browser. You type something you want to know or calculate, and it goes to work finding you an expert-level answer. How? A combination of algorithms, AI tech, and an extensive database.
This site isn’t the place to go if you want to find a plumber or restaurant reviews. But if you need an answer to a math problem, want trustworthy information on world history or events, or need to do personal finance or household math, give it a shot.
Can WolframAlpha answer your question? Search at wolframalpha.com to find out.
Privacy bonus: Wipe out your Google history
If you haven’t reviewed your Google privacy settings in a while, now’s the time to do it. I bet you’ll be shocked by all the searches, locations, and voice messages on file.