The criticism over Big Tech’s compendium of personal data proffers to a few little-known search engines that guarantee user privacy.
Websites like Germany’s Unbubble and Swisscows, Mojeek in Britain, and, Qwant in France don’t filter results, track user data, or show behavioral ads.
These sites are thriving amidst the rollout of new European privacy regulations and several corporate data scandals that have garnered public attention regarding the companies gathering tons of personal information and selling it to the advertisers.
The prevalent notion in Europe on the subject of Google’s throttlehold on internet searches has contributed to making Europe a thriving ground for secure searching. Eric Leandri, chairman of Paris-based Qwant said, “For us, it’s all about citizens and citizens have the right to privacy.”
The traffic numbers point towards the rising interest. In 2017, Qwant’s enquires triplicated to 10 billion. While the requests are growing by 20 percentiles, Qwant is receiving 80 million visits per month. The site now holds 6% of search market share in France—its biggest market.
Qwant is now receiving official support from the French army and parliament who want to use Qwant as their default engine in a bid to reclaim the “digital sovereignty” of Europe.
The site doesn’t use profile users or tracking cookies, allowing the website to give the exact same results to two different users. It has built its own index of 20 billion pages that cover, Italian, German, and French and further looks on to expand it to about 2 dozen other languages, for which the results are currently coming from Microsoft Bing.
Certainly, Google is no danger of collapsing. Based in Mountain View, California, the company holds approximately overt three-quarters of global market share while it rules the mobile market with its Android operating system.
Based in Brighton, England, Mojeek works by similar principles and so far, has assembled 2 billion web pages. The company claims that it receives 200,000 new visitors per month and the search queries have quintupled over the past years.
The German search engine Unbubble is a “meta-search” site that sends encrypted queries to above 30 other engines. The site neutral search results instead of ones that are filtered by an algorithm accommodating the personal predispositions.
Some privacy search operators believe that it is important to help users dodge “filter bubbles,” wherein the content is selected before handedly by Facebook and Googles based on other data and previous searches.
Unbubble founder Tobias Sasse said, “The main idea is to provide neutral information and allow people to depend less on machine learning-based filters. If you are using Google today, perhaps you’ll notice that there is always the same mainstream information preventing people from seeing the “great diversity” online.”
Some websites depend on donation and “affiliate advertising” which is links from shopping websites that agree on paying commission but don’t track users or target them.
That is a stark contrast to Google’s behavior or ads that pop up based on your search history which many people find invasive and creepy.
Mojeek’s founder Marc Smith began in 2004 with two servers in his bedroom strongly believes that advertising is “a necessary evil and we’ll look for whatever route we can to avoid it.”
Swisscows has flourished with search queries sky-rocketing from half to 20 million from a year ago said organizer Andreas Wiebe, who also owns a software company Hulbee.
Yet Wiebe met plenty of incredulity at the beginning. He says, “In 2014, I had people talking to me (saying) ‘you’re crazy’,” and that the project would be dead within a year. Instead, National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of U.S. government surveillance in 2015 gave it a kickstart.”