I love how “evil” Google is. Do you hear that, Google? I want you to have all of my data, as long as you keep protecting it. I want you to learn everything you can about me, and I want you to use that data to make my life better. I want you to make my life easier. I want services like Google Now to give me information before I even know I need it. I want it all. But many people aren’t in the same boat as me, and there are plenty of very valid reasons to want to protect your data and keep it out of Google’s hands. But should that mean you have to stop using Google for searches?
Well guess what: it only takes one step to stop Google from tracking you, and you can still enjoy Google search along with several other Google features. Plus, there are some great alternatives to Google search that don’t track you, and we’ll cover them here as well.
VPN. It’s that simple.
What is a VPN, you might ask? Virtual Private Networking is basically technology that takes all of your Internet traffic and routes it through a special third-party server. The websites you visit then see traffic coming from that server instead of your computer, hiding all personally identifying data in the process.
Virtual Private Networks are great for a number of things, and stopping Google from tracking you and your searches is one of them. We could go through 1,500 words of instructions full of Google settings you need to tweak to stop Google’s tracking features one at a time, but a VPN will handle everything in one shot.
The other great thing about VPN services are the fact that they’re remarkably easy to set up. Configure a VPN once on your computer and you’re done. And on your phone, a VPN can be enabled and disabled in seconds from within the Settings app. Good VPN services also often come along with a companion app that makes it easy to turn them on and off, and even to pinpoint the location of the server your traffic is routed through.
There are plenty of great services out there with prices that range from free (be careful, read reviews) to hundreds of dollars each month. The service we use and recommend is called Private Internet Access, and it costs $6.95 per month or $39.95 per year.
If you don’t want to use a VPN and Google’s tracking is off-putting, there are still some great options for search engines that won’t track you. Here are four you should check out:
DuckDuckGo: The clear leader in search engines that won’t track you
Disconnect: The best alternative if you want to search Google but don’t want to use a VPN.
ixquick: Bills itself as the world’s most private search engine.
StartPage: Very similar to Disconnect in that it only surfaces results from Google, but run by the same company as ixquick.